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Fleen Book Corner: The American Dream? Has A Very Long Subtitle

This is something I pretty much thought I’d never had to write for a book review; I’m a little shocked, to be honest. I’ve reviewed a lot of books for Fleen Book Corner — more than 150, if I had to make a guess — and for those that are not just strip collections, anything with a plot, I’ve pretty much always done something, something I will not be doing today.

There is no spoiler warning for this review.

There’s no spoiler warning because there’s pretty much no way to spoil this book. The American Dream? A Journey On Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Men, And The Perfect Breakfast Burrito lays it all out there in the title: Shing Yin Khor — sculptor, installation artist, power tool wrangler, creator of awesome Halloween house decorations, comics artist, and space gnome — took a roadtrip on the famed highway, from LA to Chicago, wandering through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois with faithful Adventure dog Bug riding shotgun. There were dinosaur statues, muffler men, breakfast burritos, and reflections on the meaning of being American¹ (and who gets to be American).

Along the way, Khor reveals as much about their thoughts and self-conception as anything they learned about the country — which is a familiar notion if you’ve read any of their short comics. To read Khor’s work is to understand what it’s like to live life in that particular skin, which is as often as not an unconfortable or painful² experience. You want to know what another person’s lived experiences are like? They’re not all happy, and that’s the price of empathy.

The lack of surprise along the way is not a flaw; it’s a strength. Khor’s laid out a thesis — America is a complicated place full of contradictions, assumptions about each other, beauty, wasted potential, needless cruelty, inclusion and exclusion, dinosaur statues of questionable paleontological accuracy and also both you and your dog will have to poop sometime — and the book is the evidence in support of that thesis.

There’s a singular voice behind all the delicate watercolors, and you’ll end up reading the narration in Khor’s cadences without necessarily knowing that’s what you’re doing. In person, Khor’s vocal delivery has distinctive pauses and inflections, and the words chosen for the text reinforce those characteristics. It’s like Shakespeare and iambic pentameter, only not quite. But trust me, listen to Khor speak for ten minutes, and you’ll realize that’s the rhythm you read the journey in all along.

TAD?AJOR66DDSMMATPBB is available everywhere, including all the places that didn’t have any back on release day. It’s appropriate for any reader that’s willing to listen to how somebody else experiences America without reflexively shouting Nuh-uh! If you go to SPX, you can give her money in exchange for goods, including this book I’ll wager.

Spam of the day:

Did you know that 1 unusual but extremely effective stretch can completely elminate your back pain and sciatica?

Next time you want to convince me of this, just put a graphic in your email instead of links to click because my back may no longer be what it once was, but I ain’t stupid.

¹ It’s important to note that the drive — three weeks out, two back — took place in 2016, before the election. Whether or not a green-haired (or sometimes blue) gnome-sized brown woman could make the same journey today with the same degree of comfort is a matter for contemplation.

² Heading off complaints — yes, that piece in The Nib was published anonymously. Three years later, Khor claimed it.

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