Tom Bradley on Family Romance

The narrator of Family Romance lives with his rapacious mother and psychotic sister on the right bank of the Judeuphrates River. They abide under a sovereign theocracy consecrated to their national/racial god, the Divine Krystelle Rex, whose prophet and agent on earth is the Grand Religiopath.

On the opposite bank of the Judeuphrates are the sandy nomadic haunts of the relic Amalekites. These are physiologically peculiar wretches upon whom the Grand Religiopath has renewed the sentence of genocide originally declared upon their remote ancestors by Jehovah in the first book of Samuel.

Our narrator’s father has waded the river to please himself behaving like a traitor-apostate among the relic Amalekites. Refugees have made their way across the river and are occupying the back yard. They turn out to be odd creatures, with shoulder teeth, ostrich legs, and problematic crotches.

Meanwhile, Mom won’t stop trying to mount her children…

Family Romance got made in just the opposite way from most illustrated novels. Nick Patterson’s ninety pictures came first, and I wrote the novel around them. One day I came upon a great stack of his artwork, and was instantaneously locked in. Each image presented a climactic moment in a strange, unspoken, yet definite story.

Nick’s drawings and paintings are like the hallucinations of epileptic mystics as preserved in icons and illuminated hagiographies. They rear up in the aether before your eyes, bristling their spikes of light, needing no context but themselves. Yet they insist that a whole chronicle be imaginatively filled in, to perform the impossible task of explaining how these bizarreries came to be juxtaposed.

One of Nick Patterson’s online fans asked him how he came up with his stuff, and he replied, “I pay attention to random thoughts.” It’s the perfect motto for him. That single sentence gives a vivid glimpse into the head of such a visual artist. We all have dreams and daydreams that are so utterly without rational context that they vanish before we can recall anything but the most general outlines. Even those dissolve within seconds. Nick not only remembers all, but he draws it in meticulous detail. He gives a perfect anatomical rendering of something that never had anatomy in the first place, at least not on this plane of forms.

Tom BradleyFor example, on the front cover of the black and white Family Romance, which I am cheerfully holding in my right hand, a giant moth has fastened onto the narrator’s head. In context, it seems natural and inevitable that such a drastic pathogen would cause his face to explode in a catastrophic sneeze: scarlet gore, brain matter and eye jelly everywhere. And, of course, anyone familiar with the pneumatics of a physical body will tell you that such a traumatic shock will cause the muscles, connective tissues and blood vessels of his neck and shoulders to throb, swell, writhe–all drawn here to exacting clinical perfection.

It’s a strange picture, for sure–and yet, the strangest part is not the physiology, but the fashion. Look at the garment he’s wearing. Where the fuck did that come from? Many of Nick’s figures, the weak and strong, the beautiful as well as horrendous, wear this same peculiar kind of wrap-around sarong, pulled high or low on the torso, depending, it seems, on the moral and/or emotional condition of the wearer. The style, the fabric: our novel starts with that article of clothing.

Family Romance

Verbals: Tom Bradley

Visuals: Nick Patterson

Jaded Ibis Press, 2012

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Full Color Bleed – 246 pages

Black & White Bleed On White – 246 pages


– Compiled By David Hoenigman

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