‘A Western World’ is utterly masterful

A Western World

Michael Deforge, 156 pgs, Koyama Press
koyamapresss.com, $22.95

Michael Deforge’s work has always been as political as it is absurdist, gently turning our patterns of meaning-making on their head through his bizarre and colourful narratives. In this collection, which brings together a number of previous published works with new comic shorts and even a bit of prose, Deforge’s fascination with the arbitary and radically contingent ways that society structures and is structured by power comes to the forefront.

The collection opens with a dreamy and idealistic manifesto of communalism, a stoned conversation about how a group of friends could or should create a micro-utopia with the potential to trickle out into and transform every level of power. It’s drawn with a smudgy, mushy aesthetic that hardly reappears after.

Indeed, the stories which follow subvert these sugarcoated ideals, reflecting back to the reader the absurdity of societal structures and the tendency of humans and other conscient beings to destroy what is good and to sacrifice everything in the name of the familiar rather than the just.

A micro-community committed to softness, a disenchanted Canadian Prime Minister ranting internally, an American government hellbent on destroying a peaceful afterlife, all-too-familiar data-mining anxieties — these are the eerie premises punctuating much of the book. Accompanying them are other episodes explaining imagined sciences and systems such as a new explanation for human sweat and a historical lineage for kissing. These bits are signature Deforge, told in the matter-of-fact, Animal Planet documentarian voice.

Deforge’s politic encourages a psychic experimentalism in the reader, asking us to consider not the most immediate topics at hand but rather the meta-narratives and epistemologies we take for granted. It is utterly masterful.