If you’re easily offended, I suggest you stay far, far away from Joseph Larkin’s Arcade of Cruelty. In fact, I’d say that moderate-to-difficult to offend people should think twice before picking up this bizarre book. The book is a graphic memoir of sorts, a look back at the life of the recently deceased Larkin, who is still alive and well. Arcade collects work from throughout the life of the author, from early scribblings in his high school yearbook, to sketches and comics, to “beat-off binders”, which are pages of cutouts from magazines and underwear catalogs. Given the fact that the author of this memorial book is still alive, it is hard to say if these pieces are actually from Larkin’s childhood or created solely for this book. Either way, the book is frequently hilarious. The production of the book is top notch – the cover notes the book is part of “Joseph’s Book Club”, the copyright page includes a drinking game based on the book (and notes “all rights reserved, all suckers served”), and the classification on the back cover is “Queer Studies / Occult”). As I mentioned above, the book is wholly offensive. A large section of the interior – called “Always never forgetting” – is dedicated to satirical comics about 9/11. The defaced pages of Larkin’s high school yearbook are juvenile and offensive (and, again, quite funny in a juvenile way). The masturbatory “beat-off binders” are all captioned “This is deeply disturbing”, and it really is. Either Larkin is a deeply disturbed comic wunderkind, or the pages in this book are a put-on on the level of the greatest of performance artists. If you like filthy and off-color humor, you owe yourself at least a look at this ridiculous book. If you want to see an entirely new take on the “graphic memoir”, give Arcade of Cruelty a try. On the other hand, if any of the above ideas sound like the furthest thing from funny to you, I’d suggest moving on. Quickly.
Arcade of Cruelty, by Joseph Larkin – 18.00 – Paperback – ISBN 9780615217994 – Also-Ran Press