(Cara Bean / Box Brown / Jeffrey Brown / Elijah Brubker / Chris Carlier / Peter S. Conrad / Chad Essley / Andrew Farago / Shaenon Garrity / Delaine Derry Green / Julia Gfrörer / Sam Henderson / Victor Kerlow / Steve Lafler / Lizz Lunney / Fred Noland / Stephen Notley / Adam Pasion / Sam Spina / Gabby Schultz / Noah Van Sciver / Geoff Vasile / Jamie Vayda and Alan King / Chad Woody / Jess Worby / J.T. Yost)
We all have that one really embarrassing story that we carry around with us like a soggy sandwich in the shame pit of our heart. Sometimes these stories define us, sometimes they remind us of our fallibility, sometimes we use them as a source of wisdom, other times we use them to confirm our self-loathing.
Our relationship with our embarrassment is, perhaps, one of our defining characteristics as humans. I mean, look, my dog never suffers from the crippling effects of being embarrassed. He's bounding into walls, eating cat crap, and throwing up on shoes with abandon if not glee. Hell, he'll even poop in the middle of the street as cars try to make their way through traffic.
Embarrassment is a social construct as much as an emotional reaction. What some individuals following one set of social rules may find discommodious, others may find perfectly normal. It arises out of the sense of drawing attention to ourselves for breaking expectations, being caught human, wanting too much.
Cringe: An Anthology of Embarrassment from Birdcage Bottom Books revels in the sense, sensibility, cause, and effect of our relationship with embarrassment. As it says, it “collects over twenty stories of personal humiliation, shame and awkwardness from a variety of indie cartoonists” and, as an anthology of embarrassment, it runs the gamut from highly personal cringe-worthy stories to uproarious comedic tales of awkwardness and unease.
At its heart, though, Cringe is an exploration of what it means to be human. The humiliation that arises out of our sense of embarrassment is a binding factor, an opportunity to connect, a chance to view others as we view ourselves. The fact that some of my favorite cartoonists like Box Brown; Jeffrey Brown; Elijah Brubker; Julia Gfrörer; Noah Van Sciver; and Jamie Vayda and Alan King contribute their embarrassment as well only added to my enjoyment of the book. To see that these creators whom I so admire have stories so personally awkward as I adds to my place within this community of the cringing.
Cringe: An Anthology of Embarrassment is, in a way, a celebration. In its 112 pages, we catch glimpses of that which reflects, the fragility of ego, our ticklish relationship with ourselves in the world, and our uncomfortable accord with expectations for our behavior. The old axiom that “no one is perfect” underscores our kindred with each other, yet our desire to overcome our failings only make us more human.
Cringe: An Anthology of Embarrassment just had an enormously successful Kickstarter campaign and won't be available until its debut at SPX. To find out more, though, you can check out Birdcage Bottom Books' site here.