Friday, November 27, 2009

“The Year of Loving Dangerously” by Ted Rall

I just finished Ted Rall's “The Year of Loving Dangerously." Forget the sex - Rall's story makes clear why our society needs safety nets. As Rall himself writes, the book is "a chronicle of desperation, of how easy it is for anyone — even a white male attending an Ivy League school — to fall off the merry-go-round of U.S.-style laissez faire capitalism." Though Rall turns things around, his story is the exception, and is testimony only to the fact that he lived to tell the tale. Millions of others aren't so lucky, and there but by the grace of God go I. Though a graphic novel, I'll be excerpting from “The Year of Loving Dangerously" over the next several weeks in hopes of attracting you to a copy of this wonderfully-illustrated, non-navel-gazing work.

"The Year of Loving Dangerously" is Ted's first collaborative effort. Ted wrote and scripted the book, based on his experience getting arrested, dumped, expelled and evicted onto the mean streets of Manhattan in 1984 (the book's title tells you what he did after that), and "Bluesman" artist Pablo G. Callejo provides lush, full-color painterly artwork. The introduction is by Xaviera Hollander, author of "The Happy Hooker."

"Year" is an allegory for the economic collapse, showcasing what can happen to anyone, even a white Ivy-educated male, who suffers a run of bad luck. It's also a shot across the bow of other male graphic artists who wallow in self-pity and alienation.

Excerpts coming soon...

8 comments:

  1. Dude, why did the city paper drop Ted Rall's comics? I saw him speak at CMU about 6 years ago. Good dude. Would read his column in Maximum Rock and Roll. Are any of the taxi driving stories in it? good stuff. If not, google it.

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  2. I'll fire off an email to Chris Potter (if he's still in charge) and one to Ted himself to see if there is an answer beyond $.

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  3. Ted Rall is a talented, controversial opinion-maker through his columns and his cartoonists. His somewhat jaundiced look at life has been shaped by many factors, chief among them, 1984, the year referred to in the title of this courageous memoir recently released under NBM’s ComicsLit imprint.

    A junior, Ted developed a medical condition that shoved his life off course and in rapid succession; he was failed by his family, Columbia University, his friends, and strangers in Manhattan. As a result, Ted found himself expelled, homeless, and practically penniless, struggling to survive.

    He found an unusual solution, picking up or letting himself be picked up by women essentially exchanging sexual favors for a warm place to sleep. For the better part of a year, Ted, still smarting from the breakup with Philippa, the girl of his dreams, has a steady stream of sexual relationships and in frank terms, tells his reader that he didn’t necessary revel in the activity. It was survival mechanism, much as he broke into a Barnard dorm to crash or later stole supplies from the University that jerked him around in order to raise cash.

    Rall is 21, handsome, and clearly desirable but despite the variety of sexual partners at a time when AIDS was just hitting the headlines, he hates his life and his self-esteem remains fairly low. Chris, his best pal, has his own issues, walking a fine line between recreational drug use and becoming a junkie, threatening to drag Ted with him.

    The writing is clear-eyed and unsparing in his appraisal of his own behavior and that of those around him. When things finally begin to turn around and he finds a job but doesn’t yet have the cash to afford first and last month rent, Ted continues to indulge in questionable behavior. Still, he tried to follow a moral path, writing, “Unlike faceless corporate entities, built on institutionalized theft, individual people were strictly off-limits.”

    He gets the job, settles into three stable relationships with women (keeping each ignorant of the others), and survives a fresh encounter with Philippa. You’re rooting for him along the way, wondering if you would have made the same choices in the name of basic survival.

    Much of the strength in this remarkable account comes from Pablo G Callejo’s artwork. The Spanish artist keenly captures the look and feel of New York City during the go-go Reagan years. His people are wonderfully varied and his attention to detail is excellent, from clothing to color. His artwork is ideally suited for this cautionary tale and made reading it a lot easier.

    This is an important work in that it lays bare a man’s life and shows how easily things can go awry and why society needs safety nets.

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  4. Hi and thanks, everyone for the nice words.

    The City Paper never told me why they dropped me. That's pretty typical. One day you're in, the next you're not. It sucks!

    City Paper Readers who miss my stuff should write letters to the editor to say they want me back. It doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. Hey, first CP reader to get me restored gets an original piece of cartoon art!

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  5. Thanks for all the kind words. City Paper never told me why they dropped me. But if you want me back in, please contact THEM! Write a letter to the editor--if it works, I'll send you an original!

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  6. Thanks to the REAL Ted Rall for stopping by and sharing his experience being dropped by the Pittsburgh City Paper. "Explanation? You don't get no stinkin' explanation!" Regardless of where you might have found Ted's work previously, if it's gone now and you enjoyed it, write to the editor and anyone else you can browbeat into acknowledging your interests as reader. After all, the advertisers who support the publication are supposedly trying to reach you, so you must have some clout! Get out there and use it.

    And as for the City Paper - Chris Potter, I'm calling you out. Why did you drop Ted Rall?!

    A public response is appreciated, as I have a hunch that Steevo and I aren't the only ones wondering about this...thanks man! You were always good for a dig at authority - but now that you're in charge, can you do accountability as well?

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  7. You can catch Ted here:
    http://www.gocomics.com/tedrall/

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  8. Thanks, gr8fuldaniel.

    Ted Rall remains an excellent commentator on, and cataloger of, the human condition in this country!

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