Review by Fiona Jerome
Spoilers in review
The stories in Tangents may be short, but Miguelanxo Prado is a master storyteller and his mix of line and chalk drawings and palette of greys and browns creates a shrouded atmosphere for the increasingly sad encounters he writes about. The stories themselves are often snippets, begun in media res and often ending inconclusively. Readers are increasingly left to decide for themselves how the characters continue with their lives.
He draws bodies beautifully, fleshy, skinny, muscular, ageing, all frail and human and provoking an immense amount of sympathy from the reader. His grasp of body language provides an intimate portrait of relationships that have often gone beyond language: little is said but much is communicated thanks to his awareness of attitude, and use of line weight and shading.
Tangents is all about missed opportunities, squandered youth, failed lives and failed relationships. It’s about growing up and accepting the reality that comes after the sweet, sweet dreams of adolescence. In the title story two childhood sweethearts meet up in middle age, make love, and discover that neither fulfilled the dreams they had talked about when they were young, either sexually or socially. Do they take comfort in the fact that they are not the only one who failed to live the life the desired, or does the knowledge that their first love is mired down in the everyday too make them more depressed?
In Prado’s world his characters, lovingly drawn with soft lines in dimly-lit rooms, are always let down by how their lives turn out and indeed who their lovers turn out to be at their cores. As the woman reflects, after her lover, a would be writer, commits suicide at the end of ‘Ballad for Sax and Neon’, “Here there is no whiskey, no neon, no sax ballad; and this isn’t New York… and you aren’t a genius writer… and I’m not your muse.”
Nakedness abounds, but this is very far from an erotic collection, no matter how beautifully some of the sex is drawn. Reflective, insightful, it’s a beautiful set of sad, sad stories.