November 8th, 2016
Got Your Nose, Douglas Noble, self published 2016
“Who is this bastard and why is he lying to me?!” – this was the first instruction given to me by my favourite English Lit lecturer, a guide for how to approach any given novel, no – check the expiration date, still seems good to go – any given text. Shame that it falls apart only when you apply it back to the source, eh?
After all, who the fuck was this man and what did he have to gain from carving out space for that idea? Only his whole fucking career.
Still, if I can’t pretend that this question will keep a roof over my head, I can still carry a jagged little fragment of it around in my back pocket, not so much an offensive weapon as a talisman to ward off the sly lies of authors, always so keen to have you see things their way. So it goes with cartoonist Douglas Noble, whose New Lies in Every Line has had me bewitched and bewildered for a full year now.
I met Douglas at this year’s Thought Bubble festival, and spotting a sucker, he drew me in with his carnival barker’s knowledge of how to see into the heart of the audience, to know not just what they want to see but what they need to see. He promised me that he was moving away from narrative and further into the realm of pure theme, and having glanced briefly at Got Your Nose, I believed him.
New Lies… worked a sonnet-like page structure over so relentlessly as to suggest that there was nothing it couldn’t do, and Got Your Nose has a similarly rigid format: one image of a broken statue head per page followed by a block of text explaining how they got that way. Anything that deliberate looks heavily thematic to my eyes, though I’m not sure if this says more about etymology or about my own particular damage. The root of theme, as I understand it, lies in proposition – in the process of putting something forward – but it seems to me that an obvious design might just as easily be there to avoid having to state a case as anything.
We cannot be certain about theme, then, but narrative? The book is crusted hard with the stuff, mucky with suggestion and explanation, just like New Lies in Every Line was:
At first I read the impacted histories at the bottom of every page sympathetically, believing every word. I scanned the ruined faces, eager to find out which sort of careless movement or ill-directed action had birthed the scars that mark every face. Then it occurred to me to ask my big question, to touch my broken talisman, and I realised that I had no reason to believe these heads were speaking for themselves. Indeed, the words and faces all have a common answer, a common source, plain as the knows on your face: Douglas Noble. The bastard. The author. The vandal.
Ultimately – or at the limit – in order to read this comic well, it is necessary to look away or close your eyes. This is the only way to chase Douglas Noble’s lies out of your own head as he has chased them from his, and as such only way to deny the damage he wants to do. To read this book is to be complicit with its author in adding to the world’s hurt.
Then again, you might not want to take my word for it. I chiselled the nose off a family heirloom once in a fit of pointless rage over some sort of long forgotten slight, and then went on to convince my mum that my father had done it when he was a child.
As for the ruined statue itself, if it remembers the truth it’s not telling.