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Your Vigor for Life Appalls Me: Robert Crumb Letters 1958-1977 (1998)

by Robert Crumb

As immature and shiftless as I am, I've somehow managed never to have been a fan of comics, which -- unless they somehow feature The Mandible -- usually seem pretty pointless to me ("Check me! I can doodle endless representations of bursting cleavage and rippling muscles!"). Not that Crumb's drawing fits that description, his conceptions of sexuality leaning more towards the Sir Mix-a-Lot ideal, but I never paid any attention to Crumb until I saw Crumb, the documentary about him. At first I was repulsed, but upon repeated viewings (why do I allow encores to things that initially repulse me? is the question a smart guy would ask himself) I came to enjoy Crumb's bitter, whining, self-pitying personality. With a title like Your Vigor for Life Appalls Me, you know you'll be getting more of the same. "I realize that I'm fairly good at drawing, but ... the only reason I have stuck at it so diligently is because I have to sort of get even with society for not accepting me" is fairly representative of Crumb's tone.

Much of these letters are taken up with matters dealing with his interest in old recordings and old comics, but the parts where he comments on aspects of culture, especially pop culture, can be hilarious.

[From a 1960 letter:]

The teenage fad is really reaching extremes... Songs like "Teen Angel" (bruther), the magazines going completely sick over Fabian, Frankie Avalon and the rest of these puppets... "I have a deep and sincere love for Fabian" says this girl in 16 magazine. "Would he ever date anyone was was not famous and who he never heard of?" It's so stupid it's funny... When the teenage stars go out of style, magazines like 16 will go out with them.
Sadly, 16 and Tiger Beat and boy bands show no signs of going out or going out of style. Crumb's no Jeremiah, but he's just as dour and somehow he manages to make his dourness entertaining.

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