Wednesday, May 04, 2005

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If you're not a fan of Bil Keane's Family Circus cartoon, you're with me. We aren't alone, either. Amazon got rid of most of the reviews below, but for a time Bil and his book collections were great fodder for bitter creative writers. People also posed as author and publisher of this title, "I Had A Frightmare!". . . .

The author, Embittered Old Cyril , August 17, 2000

I Don't Know What I Was Thinking

Wow. Sorry about that. Sometimes you just have to get this stuff out onto paper. I mean, like, wow. I'm reading back over it right now and I have no idea what the heck I was thinking when I wrote it. It just kind of vomited itself out of my brain. I can't really remember too much about it. I've never done drugs but when I was in junior high I played with a ouija board. My dad told me it would mess with my head. Looks like he was right. Funny. Kind of ironic in a way, I suppose. Ah, heck.

The publisher, Eugene Kim , August 9, 2000

The catharsis of Bil Keane's decades-long fight with drugs

"I Had a Frightmare" is by far Keane's most personal work to date. Flushing out all of his horrible experiences, from 'Nam, to his battle against heroin addiction, even to his occasional acid flashbacks, Keane exorcises all the demons of his life and, as a consequence, of America's life since the 60's. Move over Hunter S. Thompson, America has a new spokesperson for the traumas of drugs and social instability!

5 of 5 stars Suburban Psycho, October 3, 2001

Reviewer: Stanley Duke

We all read American Psycho and thought "why did what's-his-name put all those product names in between the good scenes?" Bill Keane is back again to show the literary punks how it's done, and whether it's Dolly sealing up PJ's rear with a hot glue-gun to hide the evidence or Mommy forcing raw hunks of still-squirming Barfy down Jeffy's throat as the rest of the coven watches, horror piles upon horror at a relentless pace that can only presage an insanity plea at Keane's upcoming trial. Sensitive arty-farty types mince over this or that romantic suicide who leaves some fey scribblings to posterity: the blowtorch ferocity of Bill Keane, daring to live as he writes despite the possibility of execution or at least chemical castration, leaves weak-willed pansies in the dust. Illustrated.

15 of 23 people found the following review helpful:

5 of 5 stars you should all be ashamed of yourselves!, September 28, 2001

Reviewer: Zingty Farven (see more about me) from Copenhagen

I think most of the other reviewers are COMPLETELY misinterpreting Keane's work. Bil Keane is a family cartoonist, not a pornographer or a horror writer. THE FAMILY CIRCUS IS SOMETHING THAT THE WHOLE FAMILY CAN ENJOY TOGETHER.

I am not from America but I have lived there. I can tell how accurate Keane's depictions are. IT IS CLEAR THAT THE OTHER REVIEWERS HAVE NEVER LIVED IN AMERICA - THEY ARE PROBABLY ALL FROM JAPAN.

Frankly, there is nothing in the book to support one Jason Zeaman's argument that Keane's use of Not Me consitutes some sort of solipsistic meandering. Because he is disemboweled by what is clearly the evil force in _I Had a Frightmare_, Not Me must be seen as the (non-)embodiment of the interconnectedness of identity. The very name "Not Me" mocks the consideration that identity is divisible; that identity is objective and not a social construct. This issue, of course, points the way to the heart of the questions that Keane is asking in _Frightmare_: What is reality (is life but a dream - a frightmare?)? What is morality? How much pain can a young child endure?

If the ONE IDENTITY that we all share - the Zen, the Shamanic, interconnectedness of all things - is destroyed (as it is in the modern world, Keane suggests), what are the epistemological and moral repercussions? Sicker than de Sade, more corrupt than Joe Coleman, Keane is a philosopher on par with a certain evil clown named Gacy.

Just because of all the graphic bestality you label him a pornographer; just because of all the demonic ramblings and pictorialized ritual murder you label him a horror writer. Get a life! Why are you trying to relegate such important work to somewhere outside the FAMILY domain - where we need it most? May Jeffy haunt your Frightmares.

55 of 55 people found the following review helpful:

5 of 5 stars I have to disagree, April 15, 2001

Reviewer: Jason Zeaman (see more about me) from Valley Forge, WA

While I enjoyed it as much as the rest of those who reviewed it I have to think that we were reading different books. Jeffy doesn't slowly descend "into madness" and there isn't anything existential about this book. This is simply a fine, though definitely allegorical, retelling of the great American coming of age story. When one steps back a bit and focuses through the story, very much like a 3-D stereoscopic painting, the symbols and allusions become much clearer.

Lil' Jeffy's killing spree suddenly becomes not "random acts of violence...gruesome and inexplicable" but a brave and inevitable part of his maturation process from boy to man.

Take the disembowlment of Not Me. Think about it for a moment. No I mean it, really think. Who is Not Me? The question alone echoes the first lines of Hamlet, "Who's there?" as the castle guard addresses what he thinks is the ghost of Hamlet's father and more directly is asking the very question of identity itself. All that is outside of myself or not myself. To kill, to completely and very viscerally destroy, all that is Not Me is to assert that which is Me in the clearest way possible. What Keane is doing here, as do most great authors, is bringing the intangible into tangible. By allowing Jeffy to destroy, murder and bludgeon his family, his playmates and his God he is simply illustrating the very real, but intangible process of destruction and creation that we must all go through as we create a self.

While on a business trip to SF last year associates of mine visited the wonderful Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco (don't miss it!) where they had an outstanding collection of Keane's early works, possibly the finest state-side collection ever put together. Interestingly enough the one panel that really stuck with them for long after they had left the exhibition was a rare unpublished strip. It featured a nude Bill Keane turning toward the reader from his drawing table, a quick glance down and the caption, "And they call me little Jeffy...". Perhaps with this look into Keane's soul "I Had a Frightmare" more easily comes into focus.

Clearly this is a man grappling with his own rocky, but ultimately triumphant, passage through puberty. I'm just so profoundly glad that he chose to take us all along for the ride.

66 of 69 people found the following review helpful:

5 of 5 stars Strong Anti-Drug Message, January 11, 2001

Reviewer: Albert Lee Esse from Andissa, Greece

After watching Mommy and Daddy pass out after a particularly lengthy free-basing session, little Jeffy puts some crack into their crack pipe, and the result is predictably tragic. Brain damaged from impure crack, little Jeffy suffers from profoundly debilitating nightmares and has trouble speaking coherently. Daddy is thrown in jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, trafficking, theft, procurement, break and enter, and littering, and while imprisoned, is savagely and repeatedly raped by a long succession of supremely well-endowed inmates, guards, wardens, lawyers, priests, rabbis, psychiatrists, members of the media, uncles, cousins, friends, nephews, congressmen, senators, Marion Barry, Richard Pryor, John DeLorean, and George W. Bush.

This is an excellent start to Bil Keane's Gay and Lesbian Porn series. _I Had a Frightmare_ is the first book in the series, and Keane has promised that if sales are encouraging, more books will come out. In the book's foreword, Keane writes:

"Ever since I first started drawing comics, I was intrigued with the idea of a gay and lesbian-porn series of comic books, but the idea was always at the back of my mind. My wife was always enthusiastic about the idea, but whether it was laziness or fear of its rejection, I just never started. But recently when my kids joined with my wife in pushing me to draw some porn, I thought, 'What the hell, people are much more liberal these days, I'll give it a shot.' And so, after three or four snifters of cognac, I got out my pencils and papers and set to work. I hope you won't be disappointed."

Readers won't be disappointed if every book in the series is as good as this one. The goals of this series are to:

"1. Present gay and lesbian pornography that is tasteful, a book you wouldn't be embarrassed to read on a bus or leave on your coffee table. 2. Present safe sexual practices. 3. Present a positive message to gay and lesbian youth. It's OK to be queer. 4. Present a celebration of sexuality. 5. Present porn as a way to comment on the evils of society."

This book easily achieves all of its goals. The sex is explicit as all good pornographic comic books should be, its drawings never given to merely titillate, but are integrated gracefully with the plot, mood, characters, and motivations of the characters. And while Daddy is always brutally raped, all of the assailants always wear a condom. I have about 16 000 pornographic comic books, and this one is easily within the top twenty per cent.

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful:

5 of 5 stars Who cares if Shultz is dead...we've got Keane, August 25, 2000

Reviewer: Rek of X (see more about me) from the Mall of America

"Frightmare" is undeniable proof that Keane is thegreatest artist/author alive today. The title alone had me hyperventilating with raucous laughter for I don't know how long. This book, like all of Keane's work, whisks me away to a magical place, where I like to pretend that I am Jeffy, and I endlessly relive the timeless comic in which Jeffy reveals to Dolly that he doesn't like to kiss Daddy on Saturday morning because Daddy's face is scratchy. How true that is! It's as if Keane has some technologically advanced cloak of invisibility, and moved undetected about my home during my childhood -- every comic is a literal reenactment of a scene from my early youth!

Guys, this is an essential buy. Before "Frightmare" I was a nobody, a loser, a lonely, pathetic man with no one to hold me. Now, by simply repeating "Frightmare's" puns at strategic moments in bars or at bus stops, I have become every woman's treasure. What a blessing this book has been. That I can only award this masterpiece a mere five stars is evidence that Amazon's rating system is in critical need of an overhaul. I give this literary triumph 25 stars!

58 of 59 people found the following review helpful:

5 of 5 stars I had to change my underwear, August 3, 2000

Reviewer: William Bennett from Joe, Montana

This book was terrific. The countless number of puns and jokes left me rolling on the floor and wetting myself. I love how Bill Keane so wonderfully illustrates the typical American family in this saga, which deals with issues such as Dolly's abortion, Jeffy's crack cocaine habit, and Not Me's bout with homosexual feelings. This is not only a fantastic book, but the quintessential reading experience of the decade.

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful:

5 of 5 stars Roll over Edgar Allen and tell Stephen King the news., August 3, 2000

Reviewer: Len Luxor from A safer place

Despite his recent failed attempt at horror, the 1998 slasher dud "I Dismember Dolly", Bil Keane continues to push the envelope of the genre with this, his newest collection, "I Had a Frightmare". Then again, the chameleon-like Keane has never been an artist to back down from a creative challenge or one afraid to test the limits of his audience. One read of "Frightmare" and you'll know what I mean.

The protagonist and, as we later discover, the narrator of this 3-part serial is none other than Jeffy, the lovable bubble-headed boy from several of Keane's seminal works. The child's slow descent into madness results in a tasty hodgepodge of existential torment and rage. (Think "Hamlet" as told by Stephen Dadelus on his way to William Burrough's pad to score some bad crystal meth, before taking Carrie to the ice cream social.) The angst-ridden Jeffy commits random acts of violence so gruesome and inexplicable, the reader can only wonder what would have become of this sweet child had he not been tormented regularly by the ghastly specters of his grandparents. Except for the extended torture scene in Part II, the narrator never really comes to terms with his insatiable bloodlust.

This work features some of Keane's most disturbing images to date and is certainly not recommended for the light-hearted. Fans of Keane's older work may not enjoy it but I proclaim "I Had a Frightmare" a success indeed! Lovers of horror will enjoy this page-turner but I can guarantee you'll leave on the nightlight for a few weeks. 5 stars only because I can't give it 6!

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful:

5 of 5 stars Wonderful read, July 26, 2000

Reviewer: Joshua Lobo (see more about me) from New Haven, Ct

"When Young Jeffy woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin." With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first sentence, Keane begins his masterpiece, I Had a Frightmare. It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetlelike insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing -- though absurdly comic -- meditation on human feelings of inadequecy, guilt, and isolation, I Had a Frightmare has taken its place as one of the mosst widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, "Keane is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man."

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful:

5 of 5 stars A chilling look at the world of the demonic, July 20, 2000

Reviewer: A reader from St. Louis, MO

A true horror classic! Keane fictionalized the true story of a child's demonic possession in the 1940s. The deceptively simple story focuses on Dolly, the 11-year-old daughter of a cartoonist; the child apparently is possessed by an ancient demon. It's up to a small group of overwhelmed yet determined humans, led by the reverend Damien Carass, to somehow rescue Dolly from this unspeakable fate. Purposefully raw and profane, this novel still has the extraordinary ability to literally shock us into forgetting that it is "just a story." I Had a Frightmare remains a truly unforgettable reading experience.

15 of 20 people found the following review helpful:

4 of 5 stars Should be made into a movie, November 11, 1999

Reviewer: Steve Bruman from New York

The ghosts of Grandpa, Not Me, and Ida Know torment the dreams of poor Jeffy. Bil, Thel, and the rest of the family wink and laugh at him. That is, until the strange things start happening around the house. Read it for yourself, this is one fine book.

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