Skinny and discreet, the mustached Noah Van Sciver looks older than his 36 years. So much so that it is difficult for us to physically connect this a little bald man to the representation of his adolescence, a kid with a dubious afro, broken Vans and a first-price skateboard. So much so that we have the impression of reading part of his work like the autobiography of someone other than him. Which is at the same time perfectly silly and one can no longer be fair, since writing about oneself supposes that one is already another that one looks at from a distance. If it is autobiographical, My Steamy Adventure has nothing of the thick tortured memories in which an author reviews his life course. It’s a simple episode, a memory picked up from a summer and a humiliating romantic date.
Young teenager, Van Sciver tells about his hard daily life in a large Mormon family – he has seven brothers and sisters – which painstakingly lives in a white trash suburb of Phoenix, having had to leave New Jersey after the father’s departure for a hippie community. The book acts as a kind of anti-madeleine nineties (glued to MTV, an album of Korn as background music and an arcade piercing in the process of infection) while recalling the state of permanent competition that teens impose on each other, whether it is about clothes, girls or alcohol.
The beauty of this book lies precisely in its very limited scope and in the modesty of Van Sciver’s business: forty pages, in a flexible comic book format, without illumination. Having discovered My Hot Summer in original version a few years ago, we thought he was doomed never to cross the ocean precisely because of its format: too light to be visible in bookstores, quite fragile too. Yet Van Sciver’s work – like that of other Americans – is written largely through this type of small, no-frills publications, especially in the pages of Blame it. Between self-publishing and modest structure. The books respond to each other, creating an atmosphere specific to the author, a familiarity that is ultimately very different from that which can be drawn from a book-sum. So this modest My Steamy Adventure naturally relates to the very beautiful One Dirty Tree (Uncivilized Book, unpublished in French), more voluminous, in which the author dwells on the pre-Arizona years.
The employee of me had already gone to look for the owl Infantryman Bukowski by Van Sciver; to see the Belgian publisher release this book and consider making others of the same type is a joy. Cleverly, this small format arrives with the physical support of another book by Noah Van Sciver, the edge of the abyss, thicker. A work of fiction, this time, which focuses on a new figure of proletarian in the process of desocialization, a young father who accumulates jobs and bad choices until he feels the ground slipping under his feet. One more stone in a quarry paved with pretty books if not masterpieces.
My Steamy Adventure and the edge of the abyss of Noah Van Sciver ed. the Employee of the self.