Being Fiction: A Review of Pirooz Kalayeh's Golden Ashtray

Golden Ashtray, a new book from Pirooz Kalayeh, is not so much a comic book as it is a place for adults to be imaginary, childlike in their sensibilities, and to unabashedly talk about love.

Part autobiographical, part fantastical, Golden Ashtray befriends a small cloud of sorrow, believes in justice, and seeks out companionship on a lonely night through art.

But, what’s most interesting about Kalayeh’s style throughout this work, is not only his vulnerable content, but also his honesty within the drawings themselves as they transition and bend into one another. For instance, at one point, Kalayeh scratches out different renditions of a bike, while posing the question: “How do you draw a bike?” Then quickly, on the next page, he answers with “I figure once you draw one. You don’t ever forget.”

How beautiful is that?

The language is simple. The emotion not contrived. The longing not desperate nor conventional. Instead, the work acts as a propeller bringing us closer to the heart of a city that at times, is perhaps, too big for its legend.

Almost everyone is familiar with the Hollywood sign of Southern California, initially built as an advertisement for buying land, but which has slowly, with time, turned into a representation for that aching dream, or for the dream once lost.

The desire to be bigger than life, to be a fiction, to live eternally through one’s art.

Hollywood is full of little children in this way.

And, this ideology is the pull and the push of Kalayeh’s book. The fight of adulthood vs. childhood—and the struggle to find meaning in an aging world that does not care if you go hungry or if you grow sick.

Golden Ashtray is available at lulu.com or Amazon.com

Visit Pirooz Kaleyah’s blog.

Review by Stacy Elaine Dacheux 2005

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