The Left Bank Gang
Graphic Novel Review
Book Released: 12 July 2006
Posted 03 September 2006
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
5.00 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by Adam White
I happened on to a description of The Left Bank Gang when it first came out and was intrigued with the premise: Ernest
Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce are all cartoonists in Paris and decide to rob a bank. Set in
the 1920s, when all those writers (and many more) lived in Paris, Norwegian writer/artist Jason’s tale of these writers is a little bit biography, a little bit revisionist
history, and a thoroughly entertaining read.
Jason has obviously researched his quartet of protagonists’ lives, as he characterizes them perfectly with each
demonstrating each’s unique personality (as actual history indicates). Every conversation rings true,
and if you have
read up on these authors (as I have) then you can easily see each’s character come through in the dialogue. However,
Jason looks on these authors’ lives as if they were cartoonists instead of just writers, with the conceit that all the
literature of the time was comic books instead of novels and short stories. Each author’s life and career parallels
their true one, although what they are driven to do is where the story becomes wholly fiction (but all the characters retain
their true identities). Even the supporting characters are all accurate, from Hadley to Zelda Fitzgerald and her lover,
Jean-Paul. Jason knows his stuff and makes it into a believable, dramatic, and hilarious story.
Jason illustrates all his characters as anthropomorphic animals, mainly dogs, cats, and birds (as he does in
work). Although I normally frown upon anthropomorphism as a rule, Jason proves the exception (along with Stan Sakai’s
ongoing masterpiece, Usagi Yojimbo), with his renderings perfectly suited to his subject matter. I don’t know
if the story would even have worked as well if he hadn’t used the animal-like characters, as true-to-life depictions may
have come off as silly instead of clever (which this book certainly is). Jason relies on simplicity and emotion to convey
meaning in his art, and The Left Bank Gang showcases him at his best.
Jason wisely relies on simplicity and emotion to convey meaning in his art.
Although The Left Bank Gang is the first work I have read by Jason, I now cannot wait to read all of his work. Jason
combines the best of literary tradition with cartooning, a combination well-suited to my taste in reading. History and
biographies can be wonderful reading (if done right), and when perfected and mixed with fiction and humor they can be truly
outstanding books. Jason has accomplished that with The Left Bank Gang, so you would do well to give it a look.CCdC
Cover image used without explicit permission in accordance with the "Fair Use" provision of US copyright law.