Nobody at the Trib had answered an email in about a year, so it came as quite a surprise when they asked me to write a review of The Hunting Accident. I took a quick look at the synopsis and wrote back I’d do it. If nothing else, getting hired to write a review is good motivation to read a book I might not have otherwise. They asked if there was any conflict of interest—if I knew the authors, publishers, etc.—but I couldn’t think of any, so it was a go.
The Hunting Accident is a book-length (over 400 pages) comic about Matt Rizzo, who was blinded during a botched armed robbery, roomed with Nathan Leopold, then devoted the rest of his life to writing an epic text on a brailler in the style of Dante Alighieri. It is also the story of his son, Charlie, who came to live with him in Chicago at age 10.
As I flipped page after page over the two days it took me to get through this sizable tome, I wondered why I was assigned to review it. Was it because I write about Chicago and also make art? I didn’t grow up with comics and often have a hard time even knowing how to read them. I love Chris Ware, R. Crumb, and Ben Katchor’s work, but they are by no means traditional practitioners of the form. Often over my time with The Hunting Accident I couldn’t decide whether to look at the pictures or read the words, because more often than not the two didn’t cohere.
Approaching the last few pages, I flipped to the credits at the end and a lightbulb went on: a few years back, I had a meeting with an agent representing Charlie Rizzo. She thought I might be the one to write his father’s story. But I never even met Charlie and the agent stopped answering follow-up queries. They had moved on and this thing I was now about to write a review of was the result.
The book is a mess. The drawing is incompetent and the writing is disorganized. I’m surprised it was even published. I was convinced of this before realizing my very tangential connection, but, knowing it, would my harsh judgement be seen as sour grapes? I turned in my review over a week ago and haven’t heard back yet. I have a feeling it won’t be published. The only other negative review I wrote for the Trib was killed. There aren’t many reviews of The Hunting Accident to be found online but the ones I’ve read are damn near rapturous, so mine would be an outlier. We’ll see what happens.
Knowing that in an alternate universe this might’ve been my book is an odd thing to think about. I would’ve done it very differently. Of that I’m certain. The best example of this kind of thing which comes to mind is Jodorowsky’s Dune. I don’t mean to imply I was born to tell Matt Rizzo’s story the way Jodorowsky certainly was to tell Herbert’s, but in a very small way what I experienced after reading this comic was a similar glimpse of what might’ve been.