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June 27, 2006

Book Notes - Steve Lafler ("40 Hour Man")

Written by Stephen Beaupre and illustrated by Steve Lafler, 40 Hour Man is a graphic memoir of Beaupre's working life, from menial entry-level jobs to white collar drudgery to the dotcom boom and bust. The text reminded me of Harvey Pekar's works, and combined with Lafler's maniacal panels, the book captures the workday drudgery (and escapes from that drudgery) perfectly. My previous exposure to Lafler's work was his Bughouse trilogy, three graphic novels based around jazz-playing insects, so I knew he would be a perfect fit for this series centering on authors and music.

Attendees of this summer’s Comic Con International in San Diego can join Beaupre and Lafler as they host a publishing celebration for 40 Hour Man on July 20th at the Casbah. Manx Media has lined up a bill of psychobilly bands for the occasion, headlined by Deadbolt.

In his own words, here is Steve Lafler's Book Notes submission for his graphic memoir, 40 Hour Man.

Being crazy as a loon, I’ve just jumped into the trade book market with a new graphic novel, 40 Hour Man. My past three books, Bughouse, Baja and Scalawag, featuring bugs playing bop, were issued by Top Shelf Productions. Now, I’m out there naked on my own in the All-comers publishing smack-down with Manx Media, my new imprint.

Or not quite alone, really. 40 Hour Man was written by my longtime fellow traveler in the comics world, Stephen Beaupre (we co-published the Buzzard anthology in the 90s). I contributed the illustrations to 40 Hour Man, and the smooth flow of the narrative reflects the long friendship I’ve shared with Mr. Beaupre.

The book is the chronicle of one working stiff’s journey into the minimum wage heart of the American Dream. Is it a career or just a series of lame jobs? It’s all here—from doing time as a miniature golf lackey, to going bust in the internet boom. Beaupre recounts skirmishes with bad bosses, crazy co-workers, sex, drugs and polyester uniforms as he delineates his quest to find and hang onto a job he can live with.

Mr. Beaupre and I met in the mid-seventies as teenage bus boy/dishwashers in a Western theme steakhouse. We became fast friends upon discovering a mutual ability to quote at length from Frank Zappa’s latest album, Overnight Sensation. It had the perfect song list for our demographic: Seventeen year old stoner louts! Standout numbers include Zombie Woof, Camarillo Brillo, Dirty Love, and certainly Montana.

In the chapter Rock Star Petting Zoo, our hero does time in the retail music trenches. Punk Rock hits, and an amazing wave of music hit Boston. Local hero Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom band played a stripped down Garage Punk that remains underrated. I mean, the man’s guitar player was named Billy Loosigan! What more could you ask for? They even had a good single, Radio Heart. Willie was actually the first punk band I ever saw, seeing as how he opened for the Ramones one fine evening. He certainly predated the onstage perve fest later mastered by Lux Interior of the Cramps, whose posters for A Date With Elvis show up in Beaupre’s office.

Also recounted is the steady stream of swag that came Beaupre’s way, from free Devo jump suits for the staff, all the way up to a Jamaican vacation, half swindled from a local radio station. The record store job ends quickly one evening as Beaupre’s management team pay a surprise visit as he’s zoning out to Space Jam>Morning Dew from the Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72—a true classic, or the worst record ever, depending on your point of view. Mr. Beaupre and I sure like it.

Oh well, at least he got to host an in store event with The Village People before he was fired! And, he wouldn’t have to play the Bee Gees Stayin’ Alive soundtrack three times a day anymore! Of course he had perfected and internalized his music filters—who else can trace a direct line from the Dwight Twilly Band straight through They Might Be Giants, only to quote the Butthole Surfers in the critical miniature golf scene in 40 Hour Man?

As time wears on and Mr. Beaupre climbs the ladder of relative success, he must be content to wear a Pere Ubu t-shirt to work while listening to the Sunburned Hand of Man or Sun Ra on his iPod. But life could be worse—Stephen Beaupre has found relative contentment as a professional writer and editor for the well-known internet job site (you know the one). As Frank Zappa once said, you gonna wind up working in a gas station. But not Mr. Beaupre!

see also:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)

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