Review: A Sticky Note Guide to Life, by Chaz Hutton

2016; HarperCollins

Unassuming Gold.
The often self-deprecating Chaz Hutton holds up a mirror to the banalities and paradoxes (paradoces?) of our modern behaviour and thinking. He covers social media, social interactions, everyday home and work life, and occasionally the philosophical. Charts and Venn diagrams are used in original ways to convey hiding-in-plain-sight truths. He occasionally reminds me (perhaps weirdly) of the great Gary Larson, even though their respective styles are very different: Larson’s work evokes stereotypical but often rich and sympathetic characters to tell simple stories of ridiculousness and the bizarre in a single frame (eg., absent-minded nuclear physicists, or psychoanalyst chickens). Hutton’s characters, on the other hand, are either us, or bland stick figures (usually both), and his simple stories of ridiculousness are vignettes of our everyday lives. Both are short, pithy, and often revealing of larger truths.

Of course one can take Hutton’s material simply at face value and enjoy it all rather superficially. (Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.) However, after spending some extended time with Chaz’s observations – both this book and his daily-or-nearly-daily Instagram material – I’ve begun to enjoy seeing a bigger picture statement come through in his work. His insights capture with honesty, but without judgement, the banality of our cultural priorities and responsibilities. While some of his pieces have a certain timelessness to them, the majority are ephemeral: They are very much of our current era, and might be frankly obscure to an audience in as little as 20 years’ time. And yet, this makes the work arguably more important, because it provides future historians with a succinct and flavoursome time capsule of our particular current state of postmodernism.

Having said all that, if Chaz himself were to consider any of this analysis, he might feel inclined to prepare an ironic sticky note summary that politely, but pointedly, deflates it (and, ultimately, himself).
5 sticky note flags.