When Seth Kushner was doing his Kickstarter for SCHMUCK last year, The Nerdist published Jonathan Ames’ introduction for the graphic novel. Jonathan is a good friend of Hang Dai and the author of many essay collections and novels, including What’s Not To Love?, The Extra Man, Wake Up, Sir!, The Alcoholic (with Dean Haspiel), and he is the creator of HBO’s Bored To Death, and Starz’ new show Blunt Talk, starring Patrick Stewart.
Schmuck: An Introduction
By Jonathan Ames
Full disclosure: I know Seth Kushner socially. We’ve met a handful of times over the years, and he has always struck me as a sweet and thoughtful person. An adult even.
So I thank the Gods that Schmuck is a work of fiction and not a direct reflection on Seth himself, on who he is as a human being. An artist, in this case a writer, should be allowed to create what he wants. Do we judge Hitler for writing Mein Kampf? No. We judge him for other things. Then again maybe we do judge him for Mein Kampf. After all that is work of a non-fiction, an auto-biography, and so it is a direct reflection of the man. I was simply trying to think of shocking books and for some reason Schmuck brought Mein Kampf to mind, perhaps because Schmuck unintentionally seems to support some of Hitler’s theories of Jews as a subspecies.
Let me think of a better example. Do we judge Hitchcock for making Psycho? No. Even if that film reveals some of the dark corners of Hitchcock’s mind, we give him a pass because it’s art. And so in the same way we should give Seth Kushner a pass for the very dark corner of his mind that he has shown us in his art, in this wonderful book Schmuck, which you are holding at this very moment. It is telling, though, that the two works I thought of while trying to understand and introduce Schmuck are Mein Kampf and Psycho.
For me, Schmuck, ultimately, is a cautionary tale, a horror story masquerading as autobiographical fiction, which I guess does explain my Mein Kampf and Psycho mash-up. Each story in this book, all of them written by Seth but illustrated by a different talented artist, is like a car accident of humiliation and stunted adolescent male behavior perpetuated years past adolescence, and you the reader are like someone passing by the accident – you can’t help but to stare and gawk and wonder, even as you cringe in horror and cry out with a hash-tag attached — #toomuchinformation!
That said, Schmuck is also very funny and honest and brave, and I happily gobbled up each tale, often thinking of some version of “But for the grace of God go I.”
But, sadly and truthfully, since perhaps there is no God, it is where I have sometimes gone and still go. So I thank Seth Kushner for having the balls to create Schmuck, for sharing this dark corner of his mind and for allowing some of us out there to feel less alone as we cower in our own dark corners.
I guess that’s the happy ending as it were, which is only fitting for a book called Schmuck and which is why, in case you didn’t notice, I also said that Seth had balls to write it, because I hope that most people are aware of the fact that the earliest definition of this Yiddish word schmuck, though it’s a source of some debate, is penis, and that to call yourself a schmuck is not quite like saying that you are a cock but that you are an idiot penis.
So, from one idiot penis to another, I thank Seth for writing this book and for making me laugh and in doing so lightening my pitiful load.
(Sorry, another bad sexual pun, but I can’t help it as this introduction dribbles out to a somewhat weak conclusion, so weak that I need to underscore my bad puns by italicizing them. Well, I’m a schmuck after all. Just like Seth. I mean just like Seth’s fictional protagonist, and so you, the reader, especially Seth’s wife, should not presume that this book is anyway a reflection on Seth himself, as I averred at the start of this once strong, now flaccid intro.)