Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Book Club: Volume 3

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Welcome back to the Scott Pilgrim Book Club. We’re psyching ourselves up for Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (due out next Tuesday) and the Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World movie (due out August 13) by discussing each volume of the series over the course of six weeks. This week, Douglas Wolk, Graeme McMillan, Mike Williams, Evan Narcisse, Christine Lim and Lev Grossman are talking about volume 3, Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness. (And read our comments on volume 1 here! And Volume 2 here!)

DOUGLAS: Good God, is this ever a densely plotted volume. I love that. This might be the funniest volume of the series, too–I have vivid memories of reading it for the first time in a pizza place somewhere and people staring at me while I cracked up over the “vegan” routine. (“If you knew the science, maybe I’d listen to a word you’re saying.”)

In fact, O’Malley keeps returning to the idea of how people become what they will themselves to become in this volume. Envy is kind of annoying, but she’s also created an identity for herself in a very deliberate way, and it’s worked (“total cost of outfit: fifty million dollars“); Scott has nowhere near that kind of intentionality, and being around her rubs that in. Todd claims to be a creature of pure will, top of his class from vegan academy and everything, but actually he’s a slave to his immediate appetites, which is his undoing. Meanwhile, Wallace basically just assumes things are going to work out his way, and gets rewarded with a psychic hookup who teaches him anti-rain tricks. And Knives, who starts to get significantly more depth this time, also gets the most crushing caption of the book: “has no idea what she wants at this particular moment.” Also, do we even know what Ramona wants yet? (Note also that Ramona clarifies “ex-boyfriends” to “exes” on the last page! That becomes significant next time, of course.)

(More on Techland: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Book Club: Volume 1)

The first couple of chapters have a very weird, choppy pace (especially with their intercut flashbacks), but the more I look at that section the more I like it–it emphasizes the “what’s going on here? what am I doing?” mood Scott’s in. There’s the stress of being physically attacked, and then there’s the stress of being in a room with your famous and talented ex-girlfriend/ex-bandmate while the conversation is taking one wrong turn after another.  (I’m not sure I buy that Scott was ever in a band as successful as Kid Chameleon are alleged to have been, but let that pass.) Really, one of the things I love most about O’Malley’s comics is that he keeps making up new ground rules for his work–Scott Pilgrim changes its look significantly from volume to volume as O’Malley gets better and more intuitive about storytelling (see his notes on the contrast between the respective flow of a page from this volume and a page from volume five), but it’s got so many internal shifts in style and tone and narrative voice that that’s fine.

Without having seen any more of the movie than there’s been in the trailers, I can tell you that its version of the Honest Ed’s sequence occurs in winter. This is because when I was in Toronto last year, the real Honest Ed’s was surrounded with fake snow so they could film that scene. (Incidentally, it’s right down the street from The Beguiling, an excellent comic book store with several ties to the Scott Pilgrim series.)

I also enjoy re-encountering the bits of the trailer that are straight out of the books–this time my favorite is Todd being forced to overexplain his threat to an oblivious Scott. Although the splendid “extra life” gag seems to have inspired my favorite original-to-the-movie joke that’s in the trailer: “What are you doing?” “I’m getting a life.”

A couple more music notes: “It’s Only Divine Right” is an amazing song by the New Pornographers; “Frail & Bedazzled,” like the book’s title, is a Smashing Pumpkins reference.

(More on Techland: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Book Club: Volume 2)

CHRISTINE: Was Scott’s life played out like a video game before he met Ramona or only after? When he defeated Matt Patel in Vol. 1 and received coins, Scott said, “Sweet! Coins!,” I thought his response expressed glee, but not surprise. I thought Scott was accustomed to beating up bad guys and making bank. However, in Vol. 3, Scott didn’t recognize the save point and extra life, which suggests that it is his first time playing this game of life. After Scott (presumably) defeats Gideon in Vol. 6, is the game over? Will Scott just live happily ever after with Ramona, but without the 8-bit adventure?

MIKE: I get the impression that these video game events were not happening to Scott pre-Ramona. Or, if they were, they just weren’t happening that often. I feel like he’s played so many hours of video games that when these events do happen (save points, coins, extra lives) he immediately knows what they are, as any avid gamer would. So it’s certainly rare but not hard for him to grok.

DOUGLAS: Well, he also saved Kim Pine in a battle in high school. I sort of have the sense that this is just how his (precious little) life works; if you try to make it all make real-world sense, it doesn’t, but the same thing applies to games.

GRAEME: Proof that I am slow: it took me until LAST WEEK to finally get the “precious little life” pun.

LEV: Wait, I don’t think I get it.

GRAEME: “Precious Little Life” as in “His little life is precious/special/he’s self-important and places overimportance on himself” and “Precious Little Life” as in, “He has precious little” of a real life.

LEV: I get it now.

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