Action, Figure

Action, Figure
by Frank Hinton
Tiny Hardcore Press, 2012
160 pages / $16.95 (paperback) $10.00 (ebook) buy from THP
Rating: 9.0






“I want my childhood back,” Lili states. This may be the heart of the book. Aging is terrible. A curse is associated with accumulating years. One realizes youth wasn’t wasted enough. With the sheer passage of time it becomes obvious life is not based on success. Characters in this book want to live. Success is a by-product of life, not the goal. Searches here involve the mundaneness of looking for work, of pleasing parents, and the surreal journey through bombed-out lonely streets to seek others to complete us.

Characters in this story worry about adulthood. Being a twenty-something is the worst possible experience. Twenty-somethings are young enough to remember an easier time but not old enough to make any impact on the world. Hence the characters play on playgrounds as an attempt to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood. Action figures are a way of imposing order on the world. Little plastic figurines are a way to control order using child voodoo. Pressures include jobs, mortality, keeping in touch with families, etc. Getting messed up is the main way to deal. Nobody finds the drug consumption weird. Playing with action figures in a public bathroom, yes, that needs to be lied about. Fictional cities in the center of a room are quirky. Quirk is a substitute for maturity.

Innocence is shown in Frank’s simple pleasures of life. Life sucks him into the world despite his desire to never leave university. He’s in a form of arrested development. Video games cheer him up and let him live life over and over again without consequence. They encourage him to die, give him multiple chances to get it right. In Frank’s life nothing is right. He’s awkward. Friendships are hard for him. People keep leaving to join society while he hides in the basement.

Youth culture is depicted vividly throughout the book. To be a twenty-something is to be alone. Characters generally enjoy the amount of time they spend by themselves. Much of the book focuses not on interactions with others but seeing the world through the characters’ eyes. This is about them and how they fail to cope.

Humor resides beneath this sadness, particularly in surreal elements. Lili views the world differently, and sudden shifts to and from her mind serve to amuse. In particular the party scene at her house captures the contentment of a close group of a few friends. On the opposite end, Lazuli’s party is an example of being on the outside of a party, failing to fit in among the happy ones. Or moving through a club and getting disconnected with reality. Both turn out the same way, empty.

Though Hinton is an anonymous unknowable online figure this is an extremely honest portrayal of finding one’s way completely alone. Is anonymity the best way to be honest with others? After reading this I’m inclined to say yes.

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  1. Marcus Speh

      Good review! I remember my 20s as a write-off, or perhaps I remember myself as a write-off in my 20s, I’m not sure. I wish I had had access to people like Frank and to books like “Action, Figure” then. I might have built better memories rather than bitter memories. In my 20s I often thought I was the only lonely guy and it is strangely satisfying from where I stand now to look back, back at you, and realize that this loneliness of the twenty-somethings was an existential condition rather than a personal disability or a disease. I have an advantage over most readers because Frank is not just “an anonymous unknowable online figure” to me so Frank’s anonymity was not foremost on my mind when I read this, but I don’t think that Frank’s online persona affects the quality of this book either way or that it will influence your enjoyment when reading it. In fact, when the writer writes an honest book like this, the writer is no longer really anonymous even if we never learn the writer’s name.

  2. Alex Miller

      Now I miss the apartment I had sophomore year and all my roommate’s Star Wars toys.

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