The tops of High (Blackie Books) anticipate what happens between its pages. Two plastic eyes emerge from a green background, empty and prone to strabismus, reacting to every sudden movement. They are perhaps those of its protagonist, Emilio Escribano, a comedian from La Mancha in full meteoric rise, doomed to understand the cruelty with which gravity sometimes acts. No time to chase what happens around him with his eyes, condemned to remain stupid and stupid.
Joaquín Reyes, comedian, cartoonist and actor, is now embarking on his first novel. A debut in which he declares himself “a fan of Dostoyevski and Jardiel Poncela” from his counterpotent, adopting the pessimism of the first and the taste for pantomime of the second. Blackie Books edita fictional story, closer to psychoanalysis than biographical and that promises to open a new stage in the career of the manchego.
Reyes is one of the most prominent comedy figures at the beginning of the century in our country. With The Chanante Hour and Girl Nui helped to patent a humor with traces of manners and ‘spectacles’ that remained on the lips of half Spain for a decade. Attention to pathos or ‘cosica’ – as the book defines it – were fundamental elements of his ‘celebrities’, the brand of the comedian’s house. Exaggerated cartoons of personalities from the world of culture, sports or politics. Aberrated beings to exhaustion that — paradoxically — end up being more human than their imitators.
This first novel also arises from that interest in extracting misery. Its protagonist is a luck of Ulises manchego, with an inner monologue fueled by ego and sudden fame. In full High Emilio enjoys the affection of the public, the attention of the press and the constant positive reinforcement of the likes on his Instagram. More than enough refueling on what appears to be a seamless and endless climb.
His cousin is his manager and his girlfriend the same since adolescence. In Tarancón (Cuenca) he still has the reminder of those who saw him grow up when he was someone else. A life that looks out of the rear-view mirror of a car speeding away towards fame and the inevitable stardom. In just one week, the protagonist of High is capable of throwing everything away, leaving a trail of alien shame in its wake.
Like a slow-motion train accident, Emilio’s character will be caught up in the current that dazzling fame presents him. New opportunities and beginnings that will come an avalanche of consequences. Reality pulls him back, interacting with his fans, taking selfies and taking part in the backroom of fame. With the memento mori constant of those who really know him.
Joaquín Reyes is capable of endowing his protagonist with a sensibility that is as lively as it is tragic. Between Larry David and Thomas Pynchon, High It finds enough land to attend to the daily misery. It is precisely in this aspect that its author surprises, paying great attention to the unhappiness of its protagonist.
The only obstacle posed by history is its irremediable veil of self-referentiality. Emilio is not Joaquín, although they share a symbolic space that makes us wonder at all times if we are witnessing the derailment of one of the other. Not only do they coexist in a common universe of references, but also the language is familiar, with airs close to chanante humor.
Although this self-referentiality does not prevent the comedy from ending up in a different place. The common places, the macheguisms and the easy jokes are not intended to make you laugh, but to draw better where it falls. Therein lies the true triumph of the book. Divert enough attention from the ‘comic’ to surprise us with the pathos that laughter leaves in its wake.
In one of the chapters, the protagonist attends, astonished, the improvised magic trick of his seatmate in an AVE. When he finishes, the magician confesses to Emilio that it was his brother, who died in a car accident, who really liked sleight of hand, adopting him as a mimesis to alleviate the guilt for his death. Only when he explains the incident to his cousin later does he discover that the story was false, copied from Kidding, the Jim Carrey series.
Is in that step from the absurd to the most absolute misery where Joaquín Reyes shines with his own light. Venturing enough into the gravity of life to get us afloat again. Showing us that existence itself is sometimes reason enough to laugh, provided we have a sufficient degree of cynicism.
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