written by Eddie Campbell
illustrated by Daren White
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- Related Editorial: Author, Author: Daren White and Eddie Campbell Discuss The Playwright
The Playwright begins with hesitative laughter and ends with immense satisfaction. That’s at least how I felt as I devoured the book in one sitting, going first from not having the faintest clue if the playwright of the title was worthy of respect or ridicule and then discovering that he was not only incredibly likable—he was also shockingly relatable.
At times, the playwright (he’s given a name late in the story, but it’s practically never used) seems a mixture of Ignatius Reilly and Jack Nicholson’s character from As Good as It Gets, but, it turns out, minus both characters’ complete contempt for humanity. The playwright, it turns out, doesn’t hate his fellow human beings so much as he is bemused and befuddled by them. He doesn’t understand the likes and dislikes of the younger generation, and he feels more and more isolated both from women (whom he lusts after) and men (most of whom he feels competitive with, a competition he usually loses—except when it comes to sheer wits).
Perhaps it’s because of this isolation that the playwright is the kind of man, at first, who doesn’t have much use for other people. Slowly, as the story unfolds, spanning years in its breadth, we get to know the man better and understand both how and why he came to be who he is. Author Daren White’s story is wonderfully complemented by Eddie Campbell’s dreamlike art, which is both colorful and uncluttered. Simple beauty is the order of the day here, and it works, mesmerizingly at times.
There are no word balloons in The Playwright, no dialogue or thought bubbles to convey the characters’ notions. Instead, there is an omniscient narrator who guides us through every panel and every page, so we learn—in sometimes shocking detail—what the playwright really thinks of that pretty woman near him on the bus or of the new mother in his agent’s office. It’s hilarious at first, even when it’s surprising. But more often it becomes simply human.
If The Playwright seems bleak at first, it manages to brilliantly and subtly shift, and we begin to see where joy can form anywhere in life and how a man like this doesn’t have to change completely to see his life transform. I think that’s the really amazing thing about The Playwright—it shows you just how much can happen when you move even very short distances.