a story by tim brown

for amanda

First published in issues 25, 26, and 27 of the obliviositer and released in a single edition by the author's Saskatoon-based brown comix in 1998, Pulpspotting presents a slice of a bildungsroman for a pop culture-obsessed age. The manner in which it references the media puts it in the twentieth or twenty-first century; the specific references place it in the 1990s. However, the story has a broader appeal than that. At its core, it's about maturation, and realizing that what you did at 20 no longer seems so interesting a few years later.

It's also about realizing that, beneath our passionate ideological leanings, often lurk more basic feelings and personal motivations.

getting out

man, there's just gonna be a bunch of artsie-alternageek- neohippy wannabes, chainsmoking and drinking and yapping on about how "LAST weekend i was soooooooo stoned" thinking they're oh so very hip and counter-culture because they smoke pot and dress like retards. woah... when did i become such a nazi...?

Part One introduces us to Tim, a university student and creator of independent comics. His buddy Joe drops by and invites him to a party at their mutual friend, Andrea's. Tim Brown draws most of the characters and settings in a simplified comic-book form. His namesake actually looks like a Terrance and Phillip character; the upper portion of his head detaches at the jawline whenever he speaks. The posters and pop-icons, by contrast, get a far more detailed, realistic treatment than any of the people, suggesting a theme that will be introduced later: media creations have become more real to some of us than our neighbours.

Tim, comix in tow, and Joe, head first to visit Maja, a hard-working, bleary-eyed foreign student whose life contrasts starkly with the vapid student party they're about to attend. Along the way, we're introduced to the realistic and occasionally funny banter of our young, intellectual hipster protagonists.

the party

The party plays like a million small student gatherings, though shaped by certain specific 90s elements. Most of the party-goers have branded themselves with logo shirts. Their realistic dialogue becomes increasingly focussed on the "defining" pop-culture of the time: Friends, Pulp Fiction, and Trainspotting. Meanwhile, Tim tries to sell his comix, only to have people assume they're free. His rationalization for letting them take his work ranks as one of the funnier moments. His reasoning is hilariously flawed, he recognizes the flaw, but acts on the original premise anyway.

We're also treated to a metrosexualized character identified only as "someguy." Unfamiliar to Tim and Joe but obviously well-established among their long-unseen mutual friends, "someguy" receives preferential treatment from the others despite the fact that he seems to have less to offer socially than either Tim or Joe. We see another theme: Tim's buried jealousy of other people's lives and success.

As for Andrea, she now sells 'shrooms. Tim and Joe don't partake; but as they're about to leave, "someguy" glances out a window and announces that the police have just pulled up curbside.

going home

...it's the perception that this MOVIE is somehow a quintisential defining moment of our generation or something and everyone is fucking fanatical about it for a full year!... until of course, the next 'quintisential generation defining movie' comes along...*

The final part concerns Tim and Joe's conversation as they drive home. They complain about how all-pervasive popular culture has become. They both like Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting but, like a good many other viewers, they just didn't feel they were as good as critics and crowds made them out to be. Tim, especially, finds appalling that "a loser junkie who hangs out with a couple of psychos and a complete imbecile" and a "loser junkie mob killer who ends up dead in a shitter" can be considered heroes by his friends.

But they're really talking about something else.

The saving grace of the conversation is that they realize they're being pretentious, and that Tim would love to have the same adolation bestowed upon his comics. In the end, this less concerns Tim's radical ideas about society, individualism, and the media, than his personal grief at realizing he has grown beyond the person he was a couple years earlier, and can no longer relate to his old friends.

Pulpspotting doesn't really address the defining moments of a generation, but of an individual.

*sic on the odd spelling of "quintessential."

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