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Arcade of Cruelty: The Masturbatory Ego Stroking of Joseph Patrick Larkin

Written by: Joey Esposito, Special to CC2K

ImageJoseph Patrick Larkin is not a well liked human being. He even chronicles the continual bashings he bears throughout the blogosphere on the website for Also-Ran , his self-publishing company, stemming from an abusive comment on a negative review that his book received. Arcade of Cruelty is, without a doubt, one of the most self depricating, self absorbed, and politically incorrect pieces of filth that I have ever laid my eyes upon. However, it is for these same reasons, that I found most of its 260+ pages truly entertaining.


Larkin's book essentially reads similarly to something like Kurt Cobain's Journals, it is meant to be seen as a collection of materials from the late Joseph Patrick Larkin, an amassing of the artist's sketches, notes, comic strips, innermost feelings, and beat-off binders. Except, the anonymous narrator (Larkin) seems to revile JPL in everyway possible, instead putting together this collection to shame his memory rather than honor it. The self depracation is entertaining to a point, in a Woody Allen sort of way, until he pushes it over the edge and turns some of the more text heavy introductory paragraphs into boring shlock. In fact, nearly the entire first section entitled "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" is completely unbearable. The majority consists of documents, mostly old yearbooks, with words replaced by swear words and insults, or word bubbles added into photos saying inappropriate things. All of the images are accompanied by museum-like descriptions, with the title of the "piece" and a brief description – which usually has nothing to do with anything. I'm not sure if these are actually taken from his days in school, or simply thrown together for the sake of humor, but either way, this section nearly put me off from getting through the book.


If you can wade through the first few pages of the section, you will eventually reach some sketches and very brief one panel comics. It is here that Larkin really shines. His art may not be the sharpest or most technically sound, but his cleverness overtakes the need for any advanced graphical skill. He wades between his own original work, from text filled panels with a few images to New Yorker-style one panel comics with few words, to mockeries of popular alternative cartoonists like Chris Ware, Jeffrey Brown, and James Kolchalka. Though the book is filled with other pieces of his art, including monotype prints and collages, the meat and potatos of the entertainment value of this tome comes from the comics. Oh, and the beat-off binders.

Yes, Larkin has included his favorite pages of his masturbatory fantasies, which include, but are not limited to, Fairuza Balk, The Spice Girls, Courtney Love, and tons of Melissa Joan Hart. Whether or not these are fabricated ruses or not, I can't say, but the end result is the same. You too can discover your mild sexual attraction to Clarissa/Sabrina the Teenage Witch through Joseph Patrick Larkin's eyes. Including the beat-off binders only furthers the overall theme of Arcade of Cruelty, as it's an ironic metaphor for the stroking of one's own ego, which Larkin gladly does in droves. That said, this book is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Is it legal to reprint pictures of celebreties and use the likenesses of your classmates from your high school year book without paying? I'm not too technical, but I forsee this being a problem.


With all of this out in the open, I'm sure it might seem like I'm being negatively critical of the book and it's author, however it is far from the case. If you are barreling through Arcade of Cruelty and have not yet seen any intrisnic value in it, wait until you reach the final section, featuring Larkin's comic strips, entitled "Excerpts From Always Never Forgetting", which he says is an incomplete project that was meant to be released in tribute to 9/11.

We all know that 9/11 is taboo. It probably will never stop being taboo. But this is where I cannot commend Larkin enough. Though he is sure to offend everyone that reads this book in one way or another, he does not shy away from the subject of 9/11. Yes, he uses it in shameful ways, but guess what? Sometimes the politically incorrect is be funny. Example: my favorite piece out of this entire book occurs in the 9/11 section, a single panel comic that simply shows the definition of "hero" out of a dictionary, and reads: "1: one that is much admired or shows great courage  2: guy who died on 9/11/01".


So you might not think it funny, but hey, this book isn't intended for you. If you are offended by this, you shut the book and put it down. What I truly admire about Larkin is his ability to utilize freedom of speech – not necessarily because he even believes it, but just to show that he can say what he wants, on his own platform, and get people talking. And he's succeeded.


As I said, the book is rude, crude, and full of borderline unbearbale self loathing and pseudo-despair, and is not without its sour notes. However, when the jokes are good, they outshine everything else. If nothing else, Arcade of Cruelty is chock full of content for its price, and is one of those books you'll want to leave out on your coffee table just to have friends and families pick it up and say, "what the fuck?".