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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Drinking at the Movies. Julia Wertz. Three Rivers Press (2010)


Covering the period from Spring 2007 to Winter 2008 this book chronicles, in an highly entertaining and engagingly unreliable way, Julia Wertz's move from San Francisco to New York and what befell her there. Julia has a series of jobs, none of which end well, lives in a series of unsatisfactory apartments, drinks a significant amount, is involved in some family crises and gains some small purchase on a creative living. There is no large event or turning point in the story, it is concerned with small and ordinary details. In Julia Werttz's hands this unpromising material is transformed into a wonderful one person performance, from the brilliantly staged opening to the clever ending this story has been shaped and managed with care, attention and huge talent.
Julia Wertz has a deeply enviable ability to turn an incident into an entertaining and engaging story. This book is not a memoir nor a diary, it is a cunningly shaped work of art, designed for an audience. Julia Wertz has grasped the essential fact that it is the story that counts, not the storyteller. She hides herself behind her graphic avatar, who is given enough depth and colour to be a good companion and sets about converting experience into performance.
The story deliberately casts her graphic persona in a disreputable light, prone to poor decision making, drinking too much, swearing like an Irishman and more than a bit feckless. This neatly removes the obvious signs of ego from the story and the self-depreciating humour gives the book a nice flavour. What it also does is to hide the sheer determination, hard work and discipline actually needed to create a book like this.
The art is the equal of the storytelling, simple and clear, it hides its skill and depth in plain sight. The details in the book are all relevant and carefully chosen, the emotional states of the cast are easy to read and provide real depth to the stories. Julia Wertz has a distinctive creative voice and it is a great pleasure to spend time in her company.

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