The first thing you read in the “About the Author” section on the last page of I Have to Live With this Guy! is “Blake Bell has killed a guy.” I don’t know whether it is true, or even whether it is pertinent. However, I hope it isn’t, because I have a few negative comments to make.
I Have to Live With this Guy! is much too hard to read. Why? Because it shows only a very passing acquaintance with English grammar, that’s why. You can open any page at random and find something that just doesn’t make sense linguistically. Also, somebody apparently taught Bell somewhere along the line not to end a sentence with a preposition. That’s fine as far as it goes, although the no preposition rule doesn’t really apply to English, being a holdover from one of the classical languages. Unlike Winston Churchill, I find that avoiding prepositions at the end of sentences is something up with which I will put – but only if it’s done right. There are rules, but whoever approved the copy for this book doesn’t know them.
Another barrier to reading the book is Bell’s constant use of the present tense. Now, French uses the “historical present” frequently. You can do it in English, too, but it tends to sound unnatural. It certainly does in I Have to Live With this Guy!.
The chapters dealing with more than one couple at a time are very confusing. There will be a couple of paragraphs about couple X, then something about couple Y with no indication, either linguistically or typographically, that any kind of shift is occurring. Most of the time it would have been easy to fix, too: a preposition here, a double space between paragraphs there.
Final quibble: Bell says the oddest things. I want to quote the last paragraph of the chapter on Ed Sedarbaum and Howard Cruse.
Partnership crosses generations, race, and sexuality. You will find experiences unique to each, but ask yourself how different is the union between Eddie and Howard and every other couple in this book? Their world is hyper-political by nature, therefore amplifying the differences, but does not the song remain the same?
How patronizing can you get? Has he never met a gay couple in a committed relationship before? I’m almost positive I’m older than Bell (I’m 50, and he doesn’t look anywhere near that in his picture), and I know I live in a much smaller and more provincial place (Fredericton as opposed to Toronto), and even I know gay couples, so why does he think most of his readers are going to need this bizarre plea for tolerance?
So is there any reason to read this book besides to laugh at the grammar mistakes? There are lots, actually. I Have to Live With this Guy! is a fascinating biography of the relationships between fifteen couples. One or both partners in each couple is involved in the comics world. Along with the biographies, you get fascinating insights into North American culture since World War II in general, and more particularly into the comics. It’s enthralling, so long as you can get past the sloppy writing and editing.
(TwoMorrows Publishing, 2002)