Books

Exploring Sacred Space with Jesse Jacob's 'Crawl Space'

(All images courtesy of Koyama Press)

Evocative of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland, Jacobs takes on environmental destruction, the desecration of the sacred, and the arrogance and selfishness that plague our politics and our world.


Crawl Space

Publisher: Koyama
Length: 96 pages
Writer: Jesse Jacobs
Price: $19.95
Publication date: 2017-05
Amazon

Spaghetti rainbows. Rainbow spaghetti.

That’s what greets the reader on nearly every page of Jesse Jacob’s mind-blowing graphic novel, Crawl Space. Colors and shapes twirl and spin against black-and-white backgrounds or they fill every page with intricately detailed shapes and patterns. From the colors, bodies emerge and characters unfold.

In a book with little dialogue, the opening words of Jeanne-Claude -- who, like the reader, has just been introduced to the bizarre world of the crawl space under friend Daisy’s house -- signal that something strange and wonderful is going on here. Jeanne-Claude’s body is broken down into its rainbow spaghetti parts and then put back together again, still composed of spaghetti rainbows. Then, Jeanne-Claude speaks.

“I forgot I was me.”

“Why is it like this in here?” she asks Daisy. “Why is anything like anything anywhere?” Daisy replies.

Daisy and Jeanne-Claude live in a black-and-white world until Daisy discovers that the washer and dryer in her family’s basement lead to a magical and spiritual space beyond anything they have known before, a place where color is everywhere. It's a place filled with exotic creatures that seem barely aware that they have visitors among them until a living teapot of ever-changing colors offers Jeanne-Claude a drink poured from his teapot head and the self that she had once forgotten shimmers and squirms into chaos and back again.

As they find their way back to “reality”, Daisy asks Jeanne-Claude to keep the secret of the crawl space. Jeanne-Claude, of course, tells the world. And who wouldn’t? Religious experiences are almost always told, nay, shouted from the rooftops, announced with the ringing of bells.

An unnamed narrator comments from time to time. (Or perhaps the words are excerpts from some New Age scripture.) The words talk of worlds beyond the physical and of how access to these worlds is usually “reserved for highly enlightened beings”. They also tell us that sometimes, “on rare occasions, lesser beings have been known to pass through the cosmic barrier.”

So it is that Daisy’s basement, and the crawl space that it mysteriously leads to, becomes filled with students woefully unprepared for what they are about to experience.

“Immerse yourself in the gentle waves of pulsing shapes and colors,” Daisy instructs them. “Experience a state of conscious deeper and more present than ever imagined.”

But the new visitors grab and push, chase and capture. The teapot, terrified, serves a dangerous drink. The creatures become demons.

There are moments when Crawl Space seems like a story about the benefits and dangers of mind-altering drugs. In this reading, Daisy is the responsible user (dealer?) who is the source for the students at her school. They, however, abuse what she is offering them and ruin what should be a wonderful thing.

In one scene, Daisy finds that her house has been taken over by her fellow students. Some are making out with one another, others are passed out on the furniture. Pizza, beer, and bongs litter the tables and the floor. Someone has sex in the washer. Someone throws up in the dryer.

But it soon becomes clear that something more is happening here, that Jacobs is telling a story about religion and faith, about the sacred and the profane.

“This is supposed to be a sacred space!” Jeanne-Claude announces as she enters the world of color to find everything broken, the teacup shattered into pieces, and monsters prowling a landscape of tree stumps and barrenness, of blackness and nothingness.

The narrator tells us that there are places where the walls between the worlds are thin, “that particularly pure and innocent beings possess the ability to isolate these sacred passageways.” We are warned that if we approach these other worlds with “impure and negative intentions, it can serve as a passage into a deep and endless chasm of terror.”

And so it does.

Jesse Jacobs has created a masterpiece with a book reminiscent of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland but offering so much more. Its vibrant and psychedelic imagery is itself evocative of the higher planes, itself a doorway, of sorts, to other worlds. To read it, to get lost in the rainbow spaghetti, the color explosions, the always changing shapes and forms, is to experience something unique, something other.

But at its heart, in the midst of all the colors and forms, Crawl Space is a story about Daisy. Her character, lightly drawn but always centered and true, is herself a source of wonder. She is a character so pure and awake that the reader is left to feel that it is Daisy herself who offers a connection to the beyond.

And that is a powerful message.

Jacobs takes on environmental destruction, the desecration of the sacred, the arrogance and selfishness that plague our politics and our world and offers up Daisy -- a school girl with confidence and centeredness and truth -- as the solution, as the doorway to something better and more true.

9
Music
Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Music

Coronavirus Tunes: A Brief Playlist for Our Times of Self-Isolation

As coronavirus spreads throughout the world and many of us hunker down with online media, we offer eight songs that share our feeling of seclusion.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Music

PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists

If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by the quality readership of PopMatters.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Books
Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Books

The American Robot: A Cultural History [By the Book]

In The American Robot, Dustin A. Abnet explores how robots have not only conceptually connected but literally embodied some of the most critical questions in modern culture, as seen in this excerpt from chapter 5 "Building the Slaves of Tomorrow", courtesy of University of Chicago Press.

Dustin A. Abnet
Film
Film

The Road to Murder in Love and War: Three Films from Claude Chabrol

The character's in Claude Chabrol's The Third Lover, Line of Demarcation, and The Champagne Murders are obsessively doubled and mirrored, reflecting and refracting their hunger for sex, love, money, and power.

Film

'Memento' Is the Movie of the Attention Economy

We are afraid of time, and so like Leonard in Memento, we kill it, compulsively and indiscriminately.

Film

What Lurks Beneath: 'Jaws' and Political Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Boris Johnson admires the Mayor in Spielberg's Jaws. Remember him? He was the guy who wouldn't close the beaches -- and sacrifice that revenue source -- during a public crisis.

Film

'The Serpent's Egg' Marks One of Ingmar Bergman's Strangest Efforts

The Serpent's Egg bares many of the Bergman's trademark features – the suffocating auras of despair and an underdog's sense of triumph over tragedy – but falls short of a more intelligent rendering of human drama.

Recent
Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Music

Lilly Hiatt - "Some Kind of Drug" (Singles Going Steady)

Lilly Hiatt sings about a different kind of love on "Some Kind of Drug". Hers is for a city and the impact gentrification has had its soul.

Music

There's Never Enough Time for Folk Music's James Elkington

The sometimes Wilco and Richard Thompson sideman, in-demand producer, and songwriter, James Elkington, muses on why it's taking longer than he expects to achieve more in a week than most of us get done in a lifetime.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Music

Weeks Island's 'Droste' Is a New High Water Mark in Ambient Steel (EP stream) (premiere)

Lost Bayou Ramblers' Jonny Campos turns up as Weeks Island with Brian Eno/Cluster-inspired music straight from the bayou. Hear Droste in full ahead of its release on Friday.

Music

Ireland's Junk Drawer Share New Krautrock Meets Post-Punk Song, "Temporary Day" (premiere)

Junk Drawer's "Temporary Day" is a simple yet compelling video for a gripping song that shows why the band have earned such acclaim in their native Ireland.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Music

Miranda Lambert - "Bluebird" (Singles Going Steady)

Miranda Lambert sings her blues the way an artist paints with them on her latest single, "Bluebird".

Music

'Stone Crush' Proves (Again) That Memphis Is Ground Zero for Soul and R&B

Stone Crush shines a light on the forgotten -- or never known -- artists that passed through the doors of Memphis' most storied studios in an attempt at just one fleeting moment of fame.

Music

Circles Around the Sun Shoot for the Stars on New Album

Jamrockers Circles Around the Sun's self-titled third album finds the band transcending darkness after losing their founder in 2019 to chart a groovy new course.

Music

Jazz's Kandace Springs Pays Tribute to 'The Women Who Raised Me'

Singer and pianist Kandace Springs tackles a dozen songs associated with her jazz vocal heroes, and the combination of simplicity and sincerity is winning.

Music

Coronavirus Tunes: A Brief Playlist for Our Times of Self-Isolation

As coronavirus spreads throughout the world and many of us hunker down with online media, we offer eight songs that share our feeling of seclusion.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.