Revisiting “The Snakepit Book” ten years on
Revisiting Ben Snakepit‘s The Snake Pit Book a full ten years after its original publication means you get to not only consider how Ben sees it at a remove, but also how you as the reader respond to his daily journal comics.
In his closing afterword, Ben makes the point that while at the time, he saw his life as being “the most wild and free,” but now realizes that this was “a horrible time,” where he was “depressed and lonely, heavily self-medicating and desperately seeking the companionship of whoever was around.”
The inner covers do a pretty good job of summing them up visually — the inner front is 16 panels of some variation on “going to work,” and the inner back is 16 of “bong hits” or “getting drunk.” And that’s really sort of the point of journal comics: you get what is, essentially, familiarity through repetition, which then itself makes the really interesting stuff stand out.
It’s the way your life goes. Maybe it’s because my life in the early years of this century were much the same: constant shows and hangovers, due to the drink drink drink, party party party lifestyle I rocked. At the time, I thought I was having a blast, but holy fuck was I constantly depressed. Ben alludes to that himself at one point, saying on 10-15-02: “You know, folks, it’s not always fun and games here in the Snakepit. I got a lot of stuff goin’ on in my head that you don’t know about.”
Sure, you get a lot of great bands passing though, and a good look at what life was like for a punk in Austin a decade ago, but always remember that any autobiographical work is tempered by the person putting it together. An honest admission of omission really brings home how little can be conveyed in three panels. Sometimes you get a day distilled into its bare essence, sometime you get a half-assed highlight reel.
The artwork’s sloppy at times and the monotony will either hypnotize or irritate you, but if you’ve ever had a “wild and free” period of your life, you’ll relate to this something fierce. Plus, Ben Snakepit is a man with a sense of self-deprecating humor. He’s like a far less cheery James Kochalka or a wasted Liz Prince.
The Snakepit Book‘s tenth anniversary edition is out now from Microcosm Publishing and you can get it from their store, along with a lot of other work by Ben. You can find Ben’s blog right the fuck here.