Contemporary fiction writers usually play it safe: they stick to well-worn story tropes; they stifle their sentences with polish; and they produce bodies of largely indistinguishable work. Somehow, Dale Beran has escaped this trend. He made his name as the writer of A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible (source of the above image), which might fairly be called the first masterpiece of the webcomic medium. David Hellman, the series’ virtuosic artist, in an interview described Beran’s output as ”dissonant things [forced] into a weird harmony.” He continued, “It’s very free-associative. Often I get a script and am rather perplexed at how it came to be.”
Hellman was absolutely right: Beran’s writing is strikingly original, even outside of A Lesson Is Learned. His stories are structured like rants, propelled forward in defiance of steady pacing or tone. Bizarre statements, punning and non sequitur are delivered with gravity; and outrageous scenarios give rise to poignant, touching moments. All lines and events, whether mundane or absurd, have an otherworldly quality. Yet, his stories are almost unfailingly tragicomic: for every hint of humor, a hint of sadness. This writer can think of no living author similar to Beran. Of those dead, the closest comparison—and this is a stretch—would be Donald Barthelme.
After A Lesson Is Learned went on hiatus in 2006, Beran started another series, The Nerds of Paradise. While it is not the perfect union of form and content that he achieved with Hellman, much of Paradise has been brilliant. Aside from that outlet, though, he has kept a low profile until recently. Last month, he joined Tumblr and announced that Aqueous Books would publish his first novel, Dates Worse Than Fate, in 2015. In addition, he and Hellman plan to release new issues of A Lesson Is Learned in the near future. Beran is hugely talented, and we at Still Eating Oranges anticipate his future work.
Still Eating Oranges