OUCH - An I Reads You Review
AUTHOR: Pug Grumble
ISBN: 978-0-9890058-9-0; hardcover (November 2020)
264pp, B&W, $12.95 U.S.
Ouch is a 2020 comic novel from author Pug Grumble. Comic book people may know Grumble from his seven-volume fantasy graphic novel series, Farlaine the Goblin. Ouch is a prose novel that offers up a quirky love triangle made up of a masochist, his sadistic girlfriend, and the klutzy girl who enters the picture.
Ouch introduces Sylvester, a man with a bit of thing for pain. He enjoys everything from splinters and stubbed toes to the pain caused by food burns and getting a tattoo. Sylvester really gets to experience pain when his kinda-sorta girlfriend, Felicia, gets a hold of him. A sadistic siren and queen of torments, Felicia will put out cigarettes on Sylvester's back and use sharp objects, even tools, on him.
However, fate steps in one evening while Sylvester is shopping for the ointments, medications, and bandages he needs to recover or even to survive the sadist in his life. At the Wong Chen Supermarket, Sylvester hears a commotion on another aisle, There he meets Natalie, a girl under a pile of products that fell on her. You see, Natalie is a klutz, and not just any kind of klutz. She is a colossal klutz who could end up in the hospital from a series of events that begins with a mere stumble.
As fate would have it, Felicia must leave Sylvester's life for a while, and happy coincidence (or fate) keeps bringing him to Natalie. And so nothing will ever be the same for Sylvester, Natalie, or a vengeful Felicia. Watching it all, from a safe distance, of course, is Sylvester's pal, Socket, who is obsessed with electricity and the shocks he can deliver to people with it, and Poke, Sylvester's narcoleptic porcupine.
THE LOWDOWN: Ouch is one of those novels that deserves to be called “truly unique.” It is one of the most different novels that I have read over the last two decades, at least. Being a fan of Farlaine the Goblin, I requested a copy of Ouch from Pug Grumble, curious about what he would do in a storytelling medium like the prose novel, obviously so different from comics.
Pug has a surprisingly deft touch with prose, and his execution of Ouch's narrative yields a read that is as engaging as anything you, dear readers, will find on the bestsellers list. What is different is the cast of characters. For instance, Sylvester, as a masochist, is not usually for popular consumption. He is an addict, but he is a joyful adventurer in the realms of pain both familiar and unfamiliar.
Felicia is gleeful and shameless, and is more prankster than sadistic villain, although she has dark dreams. Natalie is a klutz on the level that goes beyond mere bad luck and seems supernatural, as if she and her accidents exist partly in a place that is like “The Twilight Zone.” The author simply presents them as characters with which we can identify. Like us, they have needs and wants and confuse which are really important and which are merely indulgences.
If I would find a fault with Ouch, it is that both Felicia and Natalie seem more like the ideas for characters than like actual characters for much of the first half of the novel. It is when Pug introduces trouble, change, and confusion into their lives that Felicia and Natalie spring to life. They become whole characters, full of color, conflict, and motivation, and they grab the spotlight from Sylvester, who seems fully formed and complete right from the start of the novel.
Ouch calls to readers looking for something different in a comic novel, and it is truly a comic novel. Pug offers a misadventure that presents a side of addictions and afflictions that might be off-putting, but is quite interesting, so we can't help but want to get inside these characters. Ouch is timely, or it seems so. In an age of strife and pandemics, when self-interest … trumps caution, Ouch is fresh and vibrant and gives us lovable afflicted and addicted rogues and foils.
I READS YOU RECOMMENDS: People who are really looking to read something that isn't the same old thing will want to read Ouch.
Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"
The text is copyright © 2020 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.