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02 November 2009


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I try to read a graphic novel every couple months, just to know what's what when the patrons ask. I read this last month and was suitably horrified. Very well written and illustrated, extremely moving.

But I agree with you about not really wanting or needing to discuss it (or any of them, really). Even when they're moving (and I found Stitches very moving in the moment), there just never seems to be much substance there.

I think for me the "challenge" is that I like to paint the pictures myself, internally as I read. Having the pictures already drawn makes reading a far more passive act, at least in graphic novels. Oddly enough, I love kids picture books and don't have the same problem with the illustrations detracting from the story. No idea why.

I'm a snob. I'll always think of comic books as kid stuff, no matter what's in 'em.

"Comic books." Hmph!

I love graphic novels. I also love memoirs. I thought "Stitches" and "Disappearance Diary" and "Fun Home" were all totally successful. There's just something so moving about the facial expressions, and one tiny pen mark in the corner of an eye or mouth can say something that would take, say, Mary Karr ten thousand words to convey. (In Small I cite the "enema" scene for an expression of ultimate terror that took only a single frame).

People who read more text and less image might, perhaps, focus more on the dialogue in a graphic novel rather than the illustrations. Not sure.

I too like to see what's out there in graphic novels, particularly in nonfiction. I think they're okay substance-wise; "Fallout" by Jim Ottaviani is one of the meatier science/history books I've seen. In the end I think it is simply too disconcerting for me to read and look at pictures at the same time ("photo sections" in the middle of stereotypical NF are a different proposition); I literally feel that different parts of my brain are struggling to understand both the text and the pictures, and it's too much for me to do at one time--it takes me out of the reading too much. This is also why, I would guess, that I don't often read much of the informational tags in art museums; I just want to sink into the pictures and forget the words. Perhaps I just don't have a very integrated brain?

Hey Bert,
Snob away. But I definitely wouldn't give "Stitches" to any kids. Way too disturbing, especially in picture form.

And I support your love of graphic novels. For the most part, I can't say I love them or that I love the format, but I recognize that many of them are very well-done (this differs from NF books I dislike and I think are poorly done; sadly, there's a lot of those).

God, the enema picture was one of the most disturbing ones for me. Oof. That's gonna stick with me for a while. The pictures were fantastic; so was the text. I think it's really just too hard for me to take them both in at the same time. Maybe on the first pass through I should just read the words, then go back through for the pictures. But that doesn't seem right either.

And hey, what's wrong with plain old comic books? The Ultimates, Criminal, and Y: the Last Man beat 90% of the crime and sci fi genre for sheer awesomeness.

Enema picture? Hm. Will have to allow myself to be disturbed by that book.

I worry about myself sometimes.

@Tripp: What I meant by snorting at the phrase 'comic books' is that not all 'sequential art' should be referred to as a 'comic book.' It trivializes what can sometimes be superlative works of art. I prefer the term 'graphic novel' while realizing that we need something better for nonfiction sequential art narratives.

Hey no worries Jessica! I took no offense and I agree that graphic novel is a better term for the many literary works that use the format. I was just taking to the ramparts in the defense of genre.

Graphic novels are simply a format, a way to tell a story, like paintings or film or novels. I love comic books, but to say they're kids' stuff is foolish. If you don't want to read them, don't read them.

I have Disappearance Diary on my wishlist :) I haven't read it yet, and I can't wait. I enjoy superhero books a great deal as well; in fact I love to read and watch and listen etc. to pretty much every genre and format. It's all about eclectic quality for me. I loved Stitches and was thoroughly disturbed, as I should have been. Anyone who likes graphic novels or graphic NF should read I Kill Giants, which is brilliant and beautiful.

Can't wait for the Geary book. I've never read one of his!

I'll say this for graphic novels (I just don't think I can get myself to call them "nonfiction sequential art narratives," that's a mouthful!) they always are good for a discussion. I'll leave this one largely alone, as superheroes, comics, what have you, are not really my thang (I like losers and villains, and they just don't win often enough for me in the comics), but I will say I can't wait to talk over the Geary! This has been very educational.

Just read it last night. Liked it, didn't love it. It won't leave a lasting impression. Like everyone else here, I don't have much to say about it (though this is not always the case with GNs: I could write a whole these on my thoughts about Neil Gaiman's Sandman series).

"I could write a whole THESIS" is what I meant to say. Evidently I should proofread myself better. And maybe I should stop lying, because honestly I'm never writing one more word for scholarly publication, ever, unless it pays very, very well.

No worries about typos. There's always at least one in my posts that I'm too lazy to go back and fix. It's a blog, and no one's paying me for it, hence my "close enough" attitude.

It won't stick with you, huh? Interesting. I think I'll remember parts of it better than I will any of the first volume in that "Sandman" series, which I freely admit I wasn't really intelligent enough to enjoy or understand. I am destined to never really understand the appeal of Neil Gaiman, ever.

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