July 5th, 2022, London
I found this book – published only last month – in a secondhand bookstore a few days ago, so I very clearly have the seeds of someone else’s review right there.
Imagine tossing a book less than a month after its release? I mean, this copy is basically pristine so it was probably a review copy or – preferable so that I don’t feel so uniquely bad for the Dysfunctional Males debacle a few years ago – a copy that had been gifted to a personal friend of the writer, albeit one that was discreetly not signed.
This is one of the reasons why I feel nervous about personalised dedications – I wouldn’t want to know who’s tossed away my beautiful literature, right? Ignorance – I imagine – is bliss. (Or is it? I was already pretty depressed when I was young and naïve, so evidence points to NOOOOOO.)
The Con Artists is a graphic novel by Luke Healy about two single gay Irish men who live in London, one of whom is an aspiring (and possibly doomed to always be thus) stand-up comedian, and the other – Giorgio – is an old school friend he occasionally sees a couple of times a year who unexpectedly calls him from a hospital after being knocked down by a bus.
Frank – the comedian(ish) – rushes to Giorgio even tho they’re not particularly close, then bumps into Giorgio outside the hospital even tho he has a visibly broken (and as-yet-untreated) arm. Frank ushers his friend back into A&E and then, accidentally, kinda ends up sleeping on Giorgio’s sofa for a few weeks as he helps him deal with day to day tasks while having one arm less than he is used to. During this time, Frank becomes very suspicious about how Giorgio funds his lifestyle and pretty extreme online shopping habit, and as Frank gets more uncomfortable and tries to walk away before he feels too corrupted – or too collusive – he ends up more confused and feels like he may well be – accidentally – complicit in Giorgio conning other people. Or is he?
Healy’s novel – which 100% leaves much ambiguity – uses clear line drawings to evoke simple locations and key details. Is Giorgio a cruel and ruthless con artiste or someone with genuine, serious problems he’s unwilling to talk about with Frank? How much of Frank’s personality and personhood is a performance, too – is Frank honest to Giorgio? Is Frank honest to Frank?
I read it in a single sitting one warm summer evening when my lover and dog were sleeping early. It’s a nice, complex, engaging read, questioning identities, ideologies, self-hood and so on.
Well worth a read!