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The Newsletter of
The Council for the Literature of the Fantastic

Volume 1, Number 5 (1998)
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by Brian Clark
Copyright © 1997 by Brian Clark

Life is a Joke #10: tied up nice and neatly. Vacations, pets, and social activity by Joe Franke. 20 pages, digest, saddle stapled. $2 from Joe Franke, POB 423085, San Francisco, CA 94142-3085.

Joe is a funny guy. You might not think that to meet him. Hopefully, you won't have to meet him. I suspect he's a bit of a misanthrope. Well, more than a bit of one. Like many intelligent people, Joe Franke is probably spending most of his time dismayed, and trying to avoid, the ridiculous and disgusting displays of greed and self-centeredness that most of the rest of the population continually indulges in. Thus the title of Joe's comixzine: Life is a joke. Don't get depressed, write a comic about it.

I was on an airplane reading comic books. I tried to ignore the children around me. Not a good idea for kids to learn that strangers can be kind. These days I don't eat much. A crumpled up piece of construction paper pretty much does the trick. When he finds a cockroach in his burrito, Joe is disgusted; I was almost too nauseated to finish my meal. Perhaps strangest of all is frog stomach conversation. The longest piece in this issue, it reminds me of what might have occured if Richard Brautigan, about the time he was writing So The Wind Won't Blow It All Away (i.e., just before he shot himself) stumbled onto the set of Eraserhead. The frog stomach would sometimes interuptlike some kind of overzealous cemetary groundskeeper. The frog stomachall-concerned gifted one becomes a cathartic catalyst, leading me on to say what I thought was on my mind. Eventually the author relaxed for the first time in the oven. Well, stranger things have happened. My favorite part, though, is the bits about working retail and getting revenge on pesky customers. Joe's worked in record stores for years, so knows what hes talking about. And as a photocopy jockey myself, I can vouch for the veracity of the details he presents. Like how surprised the customer will be, thinking, as they always do, that the counter is a force field shielding them from your wrath, when you come over that barrier and tell them off, or kick them out the door. They fail to realize the soft ground they tread upon. Every sales clerk dreams of using even the mildly annoying customer as a punching bag. We have adrealin on our side, and years of irratations toughening our flesh. He tells of chasing a shoplifter across parking lots, vacant lots, and school lots, and even though he only had ten minutes left on his shift, he wasnt going to let that asshole get away. Perhaps best of all, after the dry, sardonic, gros-out humor does its work on you, is that Joe Franke never uses an exclamation point. For this, he deserves recognition.

The Council for the Literature of the Fantastic is based at the Department of English of the University of Rhode Island. We thank the University and the Department for their support.

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