Rejoice. Rejo i c e. R e j o i c e.

Rejoice. (Grimalkin Press): It’s interesting to note that Minneapolis-based, Autoptic Co-Founder, sous chef-cum-small press publisher extraordinaire Jordan Shiveley named his new project “Rejoice.” and it has that damn period after it. I believe this is a deliberate move that signals an entry into a world of deadpan humor. I once heard someone say that using exclamation marks (or any excessive punctuation) in your writing is like laughing at your own jokes. You get more mileage out of restraint than you do from any over-the-top adornment. The restraint allows the audience a sense of discovery and prohibits the writer/artist from essentially spelling it all out for the reader in a prescriptive manner. Yes, less is more, and this is a dynamic Shiveley intuitively understands. Shiveley presents a straight-faced story billed in library-style classification as “Comics/Mouse Erotica/Calamity” sans any punctuation that would fall into that trap. Everything about the book subtly screams world-weary dry presentation of facts, and avoids the overt insinuation of parody or satire, and that absence is what actually creates all the funny, all the introspection, and all the emotion.
This restraint, this uncluttering of his words with the unnecessary, is as smart artistically as Shiveley’s phenomenal March 29, 1912 was in the way it eschewed dialogue completely in favor of full audience engagement. For example, take the index page in the back of Rejoice. It exhaustively lists entries for things like “Callous Disregard pg. 3, 4, 10, 12, 25, 30, 31, 32” or “Dawning Premonition of Disaster pg. 1, 26, 33” or “My Twenties Encapsulated pg. 13” and just presents them dutifully without comment. While I think there might(?) be a typo in one long entry, where commas between numbers are suddenly periods for some reason, it’s otherwise one of the smartest, most subtly funny things I’ve seen in quite some time. There’s also a stray typo on “questionaire” (and the utility of correcting typos during reviews is something Shiveley and I have bantered back and forth about, so I’m now scrambling to proofread this review for typos), but don’t pay any attention to that. There are more pertinent things afoot in Rejoice.
Rejoice. is largely concerned with the contention between the wonderful and the meaningless in life. “Rejoice.” Period. The characters are doing anything but. As a pure objet d’art, Rejoice. was printed at Zak Sally’s La Mano Press on risograph, with patterned pages that encapsulate minimalist mouse misadventures as they navigate the choices we’re presented with in life. What I like about Shiveley’s art the most is that he isn’t afraid to sling ink when the story calls for it. There’s the dark void of the unknown hole in wall the mice encounter, perfectly represented by that big expanse of black ink. I also like how their eyes are just tiny round circles of ink, yet they somehow are able to convey apprehension, agitation, or longing.
The hole with unseen mousetraps lurking inside becomes a stand-in for how we deal with danger, there are riffs on certainty and self-doubt, submitting to the routine semi-post-hipster life of “flat-fronted trousers” and “farmer’s markets” vs. exposure to new adventures, and being caught up by those ultimately meaningless distractions in life vs. finding the time to build meaningful relationships with people. The mice are contemplating finding happiness through external things, “the right combination of words, people, places,” and the viability of that. Their “Supermouse” dreams touch on feeling as if we’re destined for something greater vs. the “is this all there is?” phenomenon in life. I could go on, but Shiveley is so very poetic with words and these feelings at times, maybe best exemplified by: “I want to settle into happiness like we are old lovers in a chance meeting… and we have just remembered each other’s names.”

If I dared to venture a personal guess, I might suggest a small-scale mid-life crisis of sorts (though I don’t know exactly how old Shiveley is) has seeped into his work. As he nails down the big job, the new place, the steady g/f, the flourishing side business/hobby, maybe hitting that point in life we all experience where you feel you’re certainly on track, but start to question if that’s the right track for you specifically, the track you always envisioned for yourself, which admittedly is an instance where reality typically deviates from your original vision. Grade A.


At 11:12 PM, Blogger Daniel Elkin said...

The last paragraph of this review. Thank you for that.

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Justin Giampaoli said...

Thanks, Elkin!


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