Fantagraphics will publish Chartwell Manor on May 25, 2021. The upcoming title serves as cartoonist Glenn Head’s harrowing graphic memoir that details his two years at the now-defunct Mendham, NJ, boarding school. We have an exclusive Spotify playlist from Head to offer a better understanding of his experiences.
Trigger Warning: This article mentions pedophilia and abuse. Proceed with caution.
As someone who has read an ARC of Chartwell Manor and will be reviewing it next week, I have to say that it’s some incredibly heavy stuff. In the foreword, Head makes it clear that this book contains a sizable chunk of his life (not his entire life) and showcases how his stay at the boarding school (governed by a serial sexual and physical abuser of young boys) continued to impact him for decades to come.
Chartwell Manor has Glenn Head telling his story with raw honesty. It’s not about making him or other characters come across as sympathetic, it’s about sharing his feelings and what he went through.
“As a young child very little of the world made sense to me,” said Head. “Finding myself in Chartwell in the early ‘70s was like entering a real-world horror comic—depraved, criminal, and corrupting to so many who attended it. No one walked away unsullied.”
Here are the preview pages!
Head shared, “1971 was the year that plunged me into that nightmare world of British discipline and depravity. Fittingly, it was also the year that saw the tail end of one of the greatest eras in British rock ‘n’ roll, a perverse link to the music of my childhood. The corporal punishment, the bad food, the crowding, the sexual weirdness of it all; the “stiff upper lip”, and the needing to rebel against it: rock music felt like another world, one I could escape into. For many years, starting around the time of my being in Chartwell, I needed that escape.”
The Spotify playlist along with some thoughts from Head:
- “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” The Rolling Stones
- Violence and ecstasy are often entwined in the Stones best music, and it’s true here. The chorus “It’s alright now, in fact it’s a gas” doesn’t mean that things are, in fact, good. More like “F**k it, let’s get this thing goin’! Move it!” It’s physical music, it forces a reaction, not thought.
- “Gimme Shelter,’ The Rolling Stones
- Apocalyptic and beautiful, this is party music with a crash ‘n’ burn hangover included, and it perfectly captures the fear and excitement of chasing a high, while not knowing if you’ll survive it.
- “Sympathy for The Devil,” The Rolling Stones
- For a long time when I heard this song it brought to mind my headmaster telling bedtime stories to us about devil worship. As much as I still love this song for its epic feel and guitar sound, I can’t escape the recollection of bedtime terror.
- “The Low Spark of High Heel Boys,” Traffic
- This long song (11 minutes!) mystified me. Its long fade in and fade out made it seem infinite. And its meanings were too: Life, death, childhood, the karmic repercussions of our behavior. As a teenager it enthralled me, made me think there must be something beyond the bland suburban world I knew.
- “No Fun,” The Sex Pistols
- The greatest cover version of a song I’ve ever heard, this one takes The Stooges original and sets it on fire, just destroying it and everything in its path. Totally corrosive, it refuses to accept what I knew to avoid like hell as a teenager: boredom! But hey, it can’t all be Brit-rock now, can it? American rock ‘n’ roll had a way of going much deeper than the English stuff, in my opinion.
- “Dum Dum Boys,” Iggy Pop
- This droning, dirge-like anthem always brings to mind some of the kids I knew growing up and, especially my friends at Chartwell Manor. We felt like cast-offs, dead-end kids; unmoored, basically. Of course, I was already drawing a lot then, but when I wasn’t I was a wastrel in training, just like the rest of them. “Well ,where are you know my Dum Dum Boys, hey are you alive or dead?”
- “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” The Stooges
- This captures it, being in thrall to bad sex, bad behavior, putting yourself in bad situations, and just wanting that, living for it. There’s no glory here, and though it’s a great song Iggy makes none of it look attractive. No fun.
- “Beginning to See The Light,” The Velvet Underground
- “There are problems in these times, but whoooo, none o’ them are mine!” sings Lou Reed in this great rocker, and I don’t believe him for a second. But I know the sentiment and I believe he does, too. It’s that feeling when the rush is so good, yet somewhere in you, you know what’s to come. But like all the best rock ‘n’ roll, it feels great in the moment.
- “Street Hassle,” Lou Reed
- Every grimy street scene of hookers, junkies, fiends, crazies, and low-lifes (me!) in Chartwell Manor owes a debt to this epic song about a death by heroin overdose in a downtown New York slum. I first heard this as a suburban kid and it terrified me. I knew it was turf I might later visit. The randomness of life and death, that it’s all up for grabs hits you with those two chilling words at the end: “bad luck.”
- “The Boho Dance,’ Joni Mitchell
- For me, a kid from the New Jersey suburbs, this song perfectly captures the aspiring young bohemians’ desire for reinvention. The belief that by coming to the Big City, changing your look, attitude, persona, you can transform yourself, beyond the banality of your roots. But “like a priest with a pornographic watch,” as Joni sings, I might change the surface, but I’m still in here, somewhere.
Going on sale May 25, 2021, Chartwell Manor (244 pages) is currently available for pre-order priced at $29.99.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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