Interrogations of Intimacy: Should You Be Reading ‘Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen’?
When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there’s so much to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.
If you want to look at naked people while stroking your beard (as well as other, lower parts), Moyoco Anno's period piece Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen follows Colette --- already, yes, a literary allusion --- through her sex work, her dormitory life, and her efforts at achieve literary clarity and philosophical honesty.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The protagonist of Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen is a young woman working in a fairly successful Paris brothel in the early twentieth century. Her perspective is filled with ennui as she recounts her day-to-day working life and the men who are important to her, including her boyfriend, who brought sex work into their lives and for whom she feels a destructive, jealous love; and a customer who is also a novelist, who asks her to write a journal.
These men are both granted their own ambulatory digressions, discovering that they share a desire for the company of a stronger personality --- another woman, at another brothel, with a more enveloping body, a more enveloping psyche, more confidence, more cruelty ---- without knowing that they also share intimacy with Colette. Their struggles with dominance, conscious and otherwise, are an understated echo of the overt philosophizing on the natures of perversity and desire.
WHO’S IT BY?
Moyoco Anno, a well-established creator in Japan's comics scene and a big name in translated manga too. In Clothes Called Fat, Sakuran (another title centering on sex work) and Happy Mania (now out of print) are high on the list of must-read Josei import titles. Specializing in gendered conflict and everyday trauma, Anno is called "fearless" by English-language critics such as Heidi Macdonald. In an interview with Melinda Beasi, Anno explains her creative motivation:
It’s the theme I’m most interested in [...]. I’m always thinking, “Okay, how can I trick this guy?”
Never shying away from how horrible people can be to each other, and how much damage can be done on a personal scale, Anno is a true giant of graphic fiction.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
Anno's linework is reason enough to read this comic; her command of black, white and greyscale are luscious enough to evoke the Moulin Rouge-style decor and the sensuality of sex without neglecting the ambivalent feelings that workers may have towards their job, or lovers to their lover. Intimacy and respect are interrogated relentlessly, and no answers are provided to gratify its audience.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
Those who are old enough, and those able to be careful with their impressions of sex workers. If you're interested in other people's ideas about intimacy, romantic attachment, emotional neediness and the uses of sex, psychologically, Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen should give you something to work with.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen is being serialized in English on Crunchyroll.