You Feed Fire Like It’s a Horse by Marco Quadri (Mini Kus! #111)

This book is a beast. Marco Quadri’s long exaggerated figure work on the first page is immediately engaging. There’s an odd duality at play with this image that gives you a hearty chuckle, but also feels fairly menacing. The art style coupled with a warm color palette full of rich Earth tones draws the reader in to this insidious world, full of corporate overlords, or “empty suits,” as one of my great professional mentors used to quip. These are the faceless bureaucrats who cook up mandatory trainings meant to improve efficiency or address some problem, but the eventual output is so watered down and overbaked, made-by-committee drivel, that it become an ineffectual acronym-laden eye-roller, delivered with faux concern about professional development, optimization, innovation, synergy, or some other silly buzzword. In Quadri’s work, the system is called “5S,” and you can imagine what the S’s stand for. At my day job, we use the acronym “ICARE,” and reciting each component makes me barf in my mouth a little, as the aspirational words are sometimes in direct opposition of how the culture actually operates. But, I digress. Quadri’s art is smart, depicting the corporate blockhead as just that, a homogenized, group-think, square-headed lunk, while all the other figures, the nameless and speechless workers toiling away in the background, the ones actually doing the real work, come in all sorts of different shapes and irregular sizes. The main character also speaks in a series of repeated floating heads, disembodied from his soul and torso like an automaton, that seems to punctuate the monotone monotony I imagine him delivering as he speaks. In this world, the reward to the workers for improving efficiency and profits is not increased compensation, better working conditions, or more generous benefits, but the cheap feel-good “morale booster” of a team-building hike outside the city. The narrative suggests that the workers may have intentionally abandoned the main character in the forest in a covert act of solidarity – WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE! The main character attempts to apply his corporate strategy to survive in the natural world – unsuccessfully, learning that these tactics are decidedly unnatural. The lemur-like creature he encounters, as a type of magical spirit-guide trope, offers a warm fire, and wisdom – “You need to supply it with something more substantial.” The lemur ostensibly refers to the fire, but the fire is a mere stand in for the man’s job, his company, his society, or perhaps pursuing a true passion. They all need something more meaningful than empty corporate platitudes. Thus endeth the lesson. At a time when the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes are wreaking (deserved) havoc in the entertainment industry, this message is more relevant than ever, and this is one of the best books I’ve read this year.


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