By Josh Neufeld
In A Few Perfect Hours (and Other Stories from Southeast Asia and Central Europe), autobiographical cartoonist Josh Neufeld takes us on a dramatic tour of places as exotic and different as Thailand, Singapore, and the former Yugoslavia. Highlights include Neufeld and traveling companion Sari Wilson’s stint as extras in a Chinese-language Singaporean soap opera, a train trip through war-torn Serbia, and a near-disastrous cave adventure in Thailand.
With gentle humor and a keen eye for the revelatory detail, Neufeld explores religion and spirituality, politics and personalities, and the mysteries of everyday life. His stories reflect the backpacker’s conflicted feelings: a yearning for adventure mixed with homesickness and a sense of disconnection, trapped in a reality constantly in flux.
In the collection’s title story, Neufeld illustrates how the tensions and fears involved in travel through a strange country are dispelled by a Thai monk’s blessing. In “On a Mission,” Neufeld contrasts the viewpoints of American Baptist missionaries in northern Thailand with the traditions of a Buddhist festival. And the book’s longest story, “Cremations, Cubicles, and Cant,” is a brand-new 20-page tale about the death of Neufeld’s grandmother, which contrasts her Jewish funeral service with a Balinese cremation ceremony; it forms the emotional heart of the book.
Evoking both Tintin-creator Hergé and “comics journalist” Joe Sacco, “Neufeld’s stories operate on a very human level, and his art reflects that with its careful depictions of people from different cultures and backgrounds.” [iComics] Throughout the collection, Neufeld uses the comics form to experiment with narrative and point-of-view. The themes and conventions of the eight stories in A Few Perfect Hours will resonate with readers both within and outside the comics world.
Comics Worth Reading observes that Neufeld’s comics “provide a street-level view of other cultures, with nothing whitewashed. . . . The stories often remind us of the point of travelling — to experience and come to terms with the unknown.”
128 page dark blue ink on cream paper. 6-5/8” x 10-1/8”.
Alternative Comics, 2004
Diamond Code: JUL042534