Shuteye Review

By | Saturday, March 31, 2012 Leave a Comment
When I was in second grade, I unintentionally got our teacher upset with me. She was asking about some of our sleep habits -- what time we went to bed, or got up, or something -- and I said that I didn't sleep. Despite her insistence that I did, I was absolutely steadfast. I would put my pajamas on and lie in bed for a few minutes, and then get up and start getting ready for school; there was no sleeping involved.

Obviously, I was sleeping, but I earnestly didn't believe it. I have always fallen asleep VERY quickly, so I don't have any real sensation of going to sleep; I just lie down and I'm out. Secondly, I don't dream. Well, technically, I'm sure I do, but I very rarely remember my dreams at all, so I have no sense of time passing while I'm asleep. I think I've had maybe 7 or 8 dreams in my life that I had any recollection of when I woke up the next morning. When I was in second grade, I had never had an empirical evidence of my sleeping.

I've since learned a little bit about dreams, mostly via reading other people's experiences. But ideas like recurring dreams, lucid dreaming, and whatever are only concepts for me. Nothing I have a visceral understanding or appreciation of.

Enter Sarah Becan's Shuteye. The book contains six different stories of dreams and dreamers. Unlike a lot of the dream type stories I've read, though, they don't have a "and then she woke up" ending NOR do they have a "which is the dream and which is reality" take on things either. They're very clearly presented AS dreams, frequently with sometimes odd disconnects and the lack of context that (I'm told) come with dreaming.

I've been reading Becan's comics for about two years now (primarily her webcomic but also her Complete Ouija Interviews) and this is her first real long-form work that I've encountered. I'm always a little cautious approaching pieces that are, in some way, substantially different than what I've known them to do in the past. Just because someone can do a three-panel gag strip every day doesn't necessarily mean they can put together a full graphic novel. But Shuteye holds together very well, both as individual stories, but also as a complete package.

One of the things that struck me as particularly interesting is how the stories began weaving together more and more as the book progressed. Almost like dreaming itself when characters suddenly appear out of nowhere or scene shifts just randomly happen, but as your mind starts to sort out the jumble of images, it starts connecting the dots for you. Indeed, the epilogue circles back to the first story and ties them all together rather neatly.

One of the things I've also enjoyed about Becan's work generally is that you can see her and her work evolve over a comparatively short period of time. She's bold enough to try things out to see if they work or not for her, keeping the best bits and discarding the extraneous junk. You can see a bit of that in Shuteye as well. Most noticeable here are a smoothing of her drawing style and some experimentation with color/tone. Not surprisingly, the later stories most closely match what shows up in her webcomic currently.

Also of note is that these stories are comprised of dreams Becan (and her brother) actually had. So, though it might not seem it, Shuteye is every much about Becan herself as I Think You're Sauceome, despite Becan not really being a prominent character here. Though it's not bag, I'm sure there's plenty in here, too, for armchair Freudian psychologists!

I have to admit that Shuteye doesn't look like the type of book that jumps off the shelf and screams "READ ME NOW" -- that's possibly why I don't recall even seeing it when Becan funded this via Kickstarter late last year. But it's a book that, like Becan's other work, makes a quiet but noteworthy statement. Definitely a book I would've been really happy to discover in some random comic shop I wandered into.

The book is available via Shortpants Press for $20. The author provided a review copy.
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