The Amazing, Enlightening and Absolutely True Adventures of Katherine Whaley

Kim Deitch, Author
Kim Deitch. Fantagraphics, $29.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-60699-631-7
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Underground legend Deitch has crafted his first full-length graphic novel, using material related to characters who figured into his earlier work “The Sunshine Girl,” resulting in one of the weirdest, funniest, and best books of the year. In this “alternative history” of American popular culture, a young woman named Ellie conveys to Deitch’s fictive doppelganger the story of her Aunt Kate, who lived through the entire 20th century and saw many of its innovations and eccentricities up close. As a young woman, she enjoys a brief spell as an accidental silent film star, until she meets the shadowy Charles Andreas Varnay and his dog, Rousseau. Varnay quickly enlists Kate to be his loyal aide in his ambitious plot to reveal to the world a secret that will bring about true “human enlightenment.” Meanwhile, Kate’s life becomes a parade of 20th century American philosophical fads, particularly those rooted in the entertainment business, pseudoscience, commercialized spiritualism, and general quackery. The story is earnestly told from Kate’s wide-eyed perspective and achieves a tone that emphasizes the multifaceted nature of human experience. The text-heavy book is formatted more like an illustrated novel than a comic, but it never plods, aided by a fast, incident-filled pace and Deitch’s humorous, detailed, black-and-white illustrations. (Aug.)
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