A Review of Jordan Rothacker’s And Wind Will Wash Away

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A Review of Jordan Rothacker’s And Wind Will Wash Away

By Nate Ragolia

Like James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon before him, Jordan A. Rothacker takes on the epic novel in his masterful debut, And Wind Will Wash Away (hereafter referred to as AWWWA). AWWWA tells the story of Atlanta Police Detective Jonathan Wind, an observant, intellectual, no-nonsense sleuth cut from the same cloth as Sherlock Holmes and Joe Friday.

In Rothacker’s own words, Jonathan Wind is “A dash of one friend, a dollop of another, fold in some traits from Philip Marlowe, a little zest of Agent Dale Cooper, a pinch of K. from Kafka’s The Castle, two cups of Faust, and then stir and forget all of that as I start to see the new creation congealing out of the mess.” And Wind is all of these ingredients and more, fully-realized and alive.

Set in 2003, we follow Wind after a fight with his girlfriend Monica that leaves him frustrated and seeking the affection of his mistress, Flora. Typical of the noir genre, Wind’s future hinges on the power of the phone call. Two calls set up his coming journey: the first, to his mistress, that ends when another man answers the phone; the second, from his partner, calling him to the scene of a murder where the victim just happens to be that same mistress.

Rothacker ups the ante and the energy, revealing that Flora died mysteriously in a hyper-localized fire. While his partner and the police force disagree, Jonathan Wind suspects foul play. At this point, AWWWA makes a powerful leap from crime noir to postmodern exploration. Rothacker’s adeptness at this switch is impressive. He carefully blends philosophy, myth, and religion into his protagonist’s forward-charging pursuit of the truth behind his lover’s death. What results is a mystery on par with Twin Peaks that embraces spiritualism and madness, blurring the lines between superficial realities and those beneath that we’ve trampled through cycles of colonialism, war, law, and order.

Truly, AWWWA is a unique reading experience. Rothacker imbues his book with Tarantino-like dialogue spoken by deep, lively characters. The setting, Atlanta, Georgia, is  a surging, breathing entity, with its twisting spaghetti of roadways tangled up in its own complicated history that is as much Detective Wind’s partner as his home. History, philosophy, and religion are their own characters in AWWWA. Rothacker–who prefaces the novel with his background in Religious Studies–infuses Wind’s twisting mystery with figures from Aztec, Mayan, Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and other backgrounds. Case interviews result in deep, revelatory conversations that are as instructional as they are entertaining. In short, this novel is deep and rewarding, influenced by the great works that preceded it.

“[Joyce] was my first really profound literary love,” Rothacker said in an interview. “At 17 I was a member of the International James Joyce Foundation. Other than lots of linguistic puns and ‘larding’ the text for my own amusement, what I used from Joyce is that device in Ulysses where every chapter has it’s own theme and governing principle.” Rothacker paces the entire book so one never feels as though they’re waiting in the back row of a comparative religion classroom, watching the clock. Instead, each page commands to be turned, captivating you–and Detective Wind–with Flora’s mysterious death. The result is an engaging story that blends the ordered cleverness of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe with the worldly, thoughtful interactions of My Dinner With Andre. Readers will pursue Jonathan Wind on his search for real answers amid the degrees of unknowable throughout Atlanta and beyond.

This is a story as much about the case of a dead lover as of secret lives, of dark magic or strange rituals. And Wind Will Wash Away is a story about the self and the shrouded mysteries within. Jordan Rothacker is one of the most masterful writers I have ever read, and this novel is an opportunity to enter into a conversation with him that will surely be longer, grow more personal and complex. Treat yourself by reading And Wind Will Wash Away immediately, and take your own journey toward truth.

Jordan A. Rothacker, And Wind Will Wash Away, Deeds Publishing, 2016: $24.95

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Nate Ragolia is the author of the novella, There You Feel Free; creator of the Illiterate Badger and Lark & Robin webcomics; and occasional chatterer on music, film, &c on Medium. He is also editor-in-chief of Boned: a collection of skeletal fiction, poetry, essays, and more.

A Review of Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminals

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A Review of Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminals

By Tini Howard

Comics are a brave medium through which to tell an adult story. While some of us know of Alan Moore’s Watchmen as comic literature and saw Chris Nolan turn Batman into Oscar bait, for plenty of people comic books still bring to mind stunted writers and readers who can’t handle real books.

Sex Criminals, written by Marvel veteran Matt Fraction and with art by Chip Zdarsky, is a real book. One of the realest and bravest books out this year. Sex Criminals addresses the shame, thrill, and occasional loneliness that come with sexual awakening via a bitingly clever metaphor that lends itself to fast-paced storytelling.

Lest readers think the title’s purely referential, allow me to educate. This is a comic where one character refers to his power as “Cumworld,” and there’s a panel illustrating “brimping,” undoubtedly the silliest sex act one will ever see. Make no mistake, Sex Criminals is about sex. Strange, silly, lonely, polarizing sex. Protagonists Jon and Suzie have both gone their whole lives feeling different. While it’s bad enough feeling like a weird teenager brimming with hormones, when Suzie and Jon independently discover masturbation as adolescents, they learn of an additional magic: the ability to stop time when they orgasm. Yes. Still reading? Hang on.

Their paths don’t cross until later in life, when they meet at a party and hook up. In that space after sex, where they’ve both always felt alone and strange, they find each other – joined in their time-stop continuum. (Remember “Cumworld?” Suzie isn’t a fan of the name either.) So, like any young, hot-blooded couple would, they use their newfound technique to commit crimes.

Sex Criminals isn’t porn, but it is full of sex. Apple has actually refused to sell it via the iOS ComiXology app due to its graphic content. (A somewhat hilarious choice, as there’s nothing in this book that isn’t in the lyrics of plenty of popular songs.) Criminals isn’t graphic novel literature, and it isn’t trying to be—but it’s far more than just a comic book. It’s both irreverent and deep; it stares in the face all of our weird societal feelings about sex and does something interesting with its tongue—maybe a raspberry or maybe a big French kiss. It’s unafraid and hilarious and real.

In issue 1, Suzie tearfully explains to readers that she uses the time stopped by her orgasm to dress and go downstairs, to say to her alcoholic mother all of the things she can’t say when time is moving normally, while Jon describes the loneliness of not understanding sexual desire for most of his young life. And then they bang and rob a bank. These people are real. Artist Chip Zdarsky never loses sight of that for a second, portraying them as beautiful and flawed, real and cartoony all at once. Every panel is stuffed full of visual jokes and commentary that encourages a laugh right when the awkward part might start. Just like the best sex.

Criminals is the story we all need—it isn’t afraid to address how we view sex workers in the same panel that it picks on the ludicrous names they sometimes choose. Is there a more perfect way to comment on we feel about sex? Perhaps not—as of early last week, Time Magazine named Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminals its number one graphic novel of the year.

Sex Criminals is a comic book for literary fiction fans, something that’s not always easy to find, and hopefully not the last of its kind.

Matt Fraction, Sex Criminals, Image Comics, 2013: $3.50 (print)/free-$2.99 (digital)

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Tini Howard lives and writes in Wilmington, NC because she got the idea life would be better there. So far, she’s not wrong. For more of her writing on comics, check out her blog or follow her @tinihoward.