Not For the Faint of Mind: Daniel Clowes’ Like A Velvet Glove Cast in Iron

Like a VelvetTo say that Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron (LVGCI) is not an easy read is to make a pretty obvious understatement. Unlike the stark realism which marks his other works in Eightball, Daniel Clowes’ anthology of serialized narratives where LVGCI first appeared, this is a work which is as close to the oeuvre of David Lynch as is possible in its bizarreness and surrealist quality. Marked by a complex plot and a non-linear narrative, this is not for those who prefer their stories straightforward and undemanding.

The story starts when he spots her in a bizarre BDSM film (eponymously titled) at a porno theatre. Inspired by his own and his ex-wife’s nightmares, Clowes’ work, if it has a plot, can be summarized thus: a man called Clay Loudermilk is on the search for his maybe-or-maybe not estranged wife Barbara Allen. It is the journey of this futile search which is chronicled, peopled by characters who are exceeded in their oddities only by the larger framework of paranoia which defines the whole story. A middle-aged nymphomaniac and her potato-shaped freak of a daughter, a testosterone addict who owns a dog without any orifices, a religious cult led by a mass-murderer, rage-fuelled anarchic-militant feminists, a couple of psychopathic cops, and a porno theatre full of slimeballs are just some of the freaks who inhabit this outlandish world.