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Book Review: Undeleted Scenes by Jeffrey Brown

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Undeleted Scenes is a hefty compendium of exchanges, altercations and just downright weird moments gleaned from the work of the acclaimed cartoonist Jeff Brown, who treats us to those moments of cringing awkwardness, embarrassment, elation and triumph that shape our social development from childhood, through puberty and beyond.

Brown's gift is in using these nuggets of meaningfulness to uncover the larger emotional truths that resonate through our lives, rendering scenes that, like real life, often lack any kind of 'pay off' – only rarely is there just the right killer put-down or virtuoso display of physical prowess to see off the bullies, as in 'My Brother Knows Kung-Fu' – with an acute eye for observed detail.

While Brown feels it necessary to provide a disclaimer to the effect that not everything contained in Undeleted Scenes is in fact true, these mostly one-pagers have the feel of being drawn straight from real life, apparently unfettered by the conventions of dramatic editing or an over-reliance on slick artwork.

Instead, what we have are moments that are messy and sketchy both in their execution and in their overall 'feel', with any kind of closure or denouement in the usual sense denied by the far more realistic portrayal of life as a series of largely unconnected events upon which we, as human beings, cannot help but seek to impose pattern or meaning.

Undeleted Scenes is a funny and oddly poignant reminder that life is far from being a story of three acts.

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