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01 December 2009


I'll go first here. As anyone who reads the comments in this blog regularly knows: I love the graphic novel format. I'm a huge proponent of the format as an artform, and being the buyer of adult NF at my library, I buy as much GN NF as I consider reasonable for our collection (Fun Home, Joe Sacco works, The Photographer, etc.). I won't call myself bias, but I have a long standing love of the format. So I think that answers the first question.

I have to say that I didn't notice any newspaper articles at the end of my copy of the Geary book, so I'll have to go back and check. I know that when reading any GN NF, if there is any source material provided, I always read it and find that it adds a great deal to the experience.

I would certainly ask Geary more about the origins of the journal he adapted for the book. That kind of thing fascinates me, and is a mystery in itself. I'd also ask him why he's so fascinated with Victorian murder, as this might also shed some light on why I'm suddenly so intrigued by that time period!

I think this was my second GN ever so don't ask me! (I always forget to look for these in the library since I ONLY use the lib to pick up and drop off books. and book stores NEVER have the GN's I want, it seems. Another disc for another day) My favorite thing about the Geary book was the layouts of the house and trying to mark the path of the killer. I only skimmed the articles - I don't think it added nor detracted from my appreciating the story as presented. I supposed I would ask Geary if he thinks Lizzie did it? I'm still not sure myself. but I guess she had to have, huh? boggles my brain anyone could do it but in only so few minutes?! with no obvious evidence? And how could that guy sleep in guest room that night?! no way.

I'm so glad we read a GN; I knew you would enjoy it. Personally, I LOVE graphic novels when it comes to nonfiction, but have found very few in fiction that I care very much about. Some of the NF GNs I've read have also been just plain my favorite books: "Fallout," by Jim Ottaviani, "Mom's Cancer" by Brian Fies, etc. For some reason it is easier for me to follow NF narratives along with the pictures, but when I'm trying to keep track of a fictional story with pictures, it's too much.

I am pleased Geary is out there, because I think there needs to be more awareness of really great NF graphic novels. And HEY--what is the deal? I just got a different copy of the book and this one didn't have any newspaper articles from the time either! I feel robbed. The earlier edition I had must have been a new printing with the articles added. And--GREAT question about the origins of the memoir his book is based on. I too was curious to learn more about how he found it and got permission to use it.

for the record, i don't think it was lizzie, but i do think she knows who it was. it's like living so close to salem. i know more about the bordens and the witch trials than i really want to. anybody have any interest in roger williams or the pilgrims? cause i know a lot about them too ;)

Care--someday we will need to talk about how you use the library to drop things off and pick things up only--which I find very interesting, because you are such a reader. Another topic for another day.

I agree that seeing the layouts and the other time period details really added another dimension to Geary's history. Also: although it was not really graphic, the spatter on the walls was very creepily done.

I'm totally with you. I have one question, and one question only: after researching the book, do you think she did it? (I asked Mr. CR this too after he finished it; he wasn't sure. I gotta say, though, since I think a lot of crimes do turn out to be committed by family members, I might have to play the statistics here and think she did it. The burning of the dress didn't look good, I didn't think.)

An interesting theory, and one that bears thinking about (that Lizzie knew who did it). I'm very jealous you live near Salem--I was there once in the fall and it was so beautiful.

Care: You're the one who lives by Fall River, right? Have you been to the Lizzie Borden museum there? (There is one, you said, right?)

i live near fall river (or as we like to say, fall riv), but have never been there. it's odd. when you grow up near historical things, you might go on a class trip, but otherwise you tend to avoid touristy things near you. i'm sorry to but in, but i just had to mention that. (for example, i have not been to salem, ma or to plymouth rock, or on the mayflower. how messed up is that?)

I typically love GN and especially NF GN, but I was a bit 'eh' on this one. It didn't really delve, which I prefer in my NF, GN or otherwise. I only skimmed the articles, but I might go back and read them more carefully before I take the book back to the library. I might ask what, if anything, Geary feels he left out of the book and why OR if he feels like he could've expanded on what he had.

I actually read "The 9/11 Report: the graphic adaptation" and certainly wouldn't have read that book in any other format. Though I'm new to GN, I do enjoy it and recently read "Persepolis" (now there's a book with a lot of *crime* in it). Since I'm less likely to want to see a graphic representation of a gory crime than to read about it, I guess my interest in reading a GN true crime would depend on how "tastefully" the crime was pictured.

On this book in particular, I did like the layout of the house being pictured, but I'm a map-freak and want to see a representation of everything like that.

I also would like to know if Rick Geary came to any personal conclusions about the Borden crime. The idea that Lizzie might have known who did it and was protecting someone is intriguing.

There were newspaper articles at the back of the book I read. I skimmed them quickly, but did not go into any depth with them. I usually do read that sort of thing, but was eager to get on to The Restless Sleep and time was pressing.

NF in the GN format does not circulate as well as I wish it did. School children, unfortunately, are often prevented from using graphic novels for school work. It's a shame. Seems to me that the only people reading nonfiction in the graphic format are those who already read graphic novels, AND who are willing to explore beyond their favorite series (usually superheroes and manga).

But hey, that describes me perfectly. I *love* reading the graphic format. I'm always looking for stand-alone titles, fiction or nonfiction. I'll read graphic memoirs occasionally (there are a ton of them) but what I really like, nonfiction-wise, are the books that focus on a particular topic: Geary's books, or the one at my library on genetics and DNA, or the adaptation of a chapter from Zinn's book A People's History of the United States.

I am sort of a reluctant nonfiction reader, but I find that the graphic format can lure me in. No way would I have read a book on genetics that didn't have lots and lots of pictures. And specific to this discussion: I'm with the crowd that's read Krakauer and Capote and not much else in the way of True Crime, so once again, a graphic book has had me reading outside my standard genres.

i just wanted to mention From Hell for a second. From Hell (for those that don't know) is a GN by Alan Moore about Jack the Ripper. It is technically not true crime as it's fiction, but it's moore's account of what happened, and it's fascinating. it's brilliant actually. and the art is all black and white, by eddie campbell. it is still incredibly graphic, but if you can stomach it and liked geary, i highly recommend it. it's amazing.

lesbrarian: what's the book about genetics? i'm very curious.

Beth: The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA, written by Mark Schultz. And I've been meaning to read From Hell, so now it's officially going on my To Be Read spreadsheet.

yay! from hell is like nothing you've read or will read again i promise you. and the stuff of life is now on my librarything wishlist :)

Although I tend to read fiction graphic novels over nonfiction I like all of them. I like how they communicate emotion and action in economical ways. I also like that they can be read quickly. You rarely find a padded graphic novel, but you find PLENTY of padded nonfiction. There are lots of books that should have just been New Yorker articles, but the graphic novel format forces concision.

As for Geary, I would be curious as to why he chose the Victorian time frame. His art feels right for it, but I suspect it was for another reason. I'd also want to know what specifically about the format make it attractive for true crime.

I've been out all day today but what a treat to come back to this discussion. Donna, Lesbrarian, Beth, others in libraries--do you ever offer book groups with GN choices? This one really seems to have led to a lot of great discussions.

Lesbrarian, I totally agree that I wish people would read more NF in GN form. I don't think it's advertised well in libraries or stores, either. "Fallout" remains (for me) one of the greatest science books of all time, and the only one that ever made atomic science ever borderline comprehensible. They should be assigning books like that for class--that and Larry Gonick and Marjane Satrapi for world history, etc.

Beth, I did read From Hell but I had the same problem I always have with fiction GN. Too much going on, and neither the pictures nor the text sufficiently grabbing my attention. That's not a problem with "From Hell," though. I just shouldn't be reading fiction GNs, that's all.

Laura, I too was disappointed by the lack of "investigating" in the Geary, but I think that was because he was tied to following the memoir, his source material. (Mr. CR commented on that too.) I wonder if he could have speculated more without the memoir as the structure, or how he would have drawn that, or how it could have worked. I would have liked a bit more of historical perspective too, like maybe how such a crime investigation differs now. (It seemed like such a haphazard way to treat a crime scene, with everyone trooping on through and staying there overnight.)

Your question about the Victorian time period is interesting too, as his art really does seem to lend itself to that era. Does his art always look the same? (Lesbrarian: Does the Trotsky book look a lot like this one?) Was he interested in the period first, or did he become interested after his art led him that way?

Donna: Would you recommend the 9/11 GN? I didn't know that was available, but I agree with you that that would be about the only format I could tackle that story in.

Geary's Trotsky bio has a more modern feel to the art; you can tell it's the same artist, but it doesn't have that Victorian flair.

As for book groups: I want nothing to do with them (even this online book discussion calls for more human interaction than I care for. I am a curmudgeon) but my buddy Andrew leads a book group. He tried Persepolis once.

Persepolis is, like, the ultimate crowd pleaser. Even people who swear they don't like comics are bound to like Persepolis. It's what I habitually recommend it to fussy middle-aged ladies who like their Philippa Gregory and their Three Cups of Tea.

Despite its general popularity, the book just did not do well with Andrew's group. If even Perepolis can't win over the (stereotypical) book crowd, I despair of ever getting them to read any other graphic books.

Okay, that tears it, I MUST get the Trotsky bio; I'm intrigued by the more modern art.

You're going to love this, Lesbrarian: although I think it would be a good book to study for history, I did not like Persepolis. At all. So I guess I can picture that. Depends on the book group, I suppose. I just have been so pleased with all the discussion on this book, and I notice that my posts about the few GNs I read always garner good comments. Perhaps GNs just have very devoted and knowledgeable fans?

I hear you on book groups. I find this one lovely because we can all say what we want, but I was always frustrated by library book groups because you were always supposed to keep things so positive. Keeping things positive, not so much a strength of mine. :) Good luck to Andrew in his future book groups!! Come on, though, this one's pretty easy--do you host any online book clubs at Williamsburg?

The Trotsky bio has some wicked-cool cover art, even if you don't like what's on the inside.

Persepolis: I appreciate it more than I like it. I really like Satrapi's artwork; I am glad that the book introduces new people to the format; I liked the story for what it was. The problem is that the story was about overcoming oppression and coming of age. I can only handle so much thoughtful, contemplative, sensitive insight into culture and history.

I like Persepolis a heck of a lot more than the other books of its type out there (you know, the ones that are supposed to make you enlightened and enriched and culturally informed when you're done). It's not really for me, but I definitely recommend it whenever I can.

Nope-- no online book groups here, though we get heavy traffic in the comments with out book blog.

I am not a regular graphic novel reader at all, but I will try the "popular" ones. I just finished Stitches and that was very well done. I don't think I would have felt the same emotional tug if I had just read a memoir about a young boy who had gone through such a difficult childhood, the illustrations made me feel more. As for Geary's book about Borden, I wish I could make every history teacher assign it, his look at the murders made them so human. I felt at the beginning that Geary was sticking up for Lizzie, but then I realized it was the woman who wrote the memoir that seemed sympathetic. So many unexplored layers to that story and so interesting how crime scene analysis has changed, Lizzie's DNA would have solved everything. I am just working on Stacy Horn's book and have to admit I agree with the other bookgroupers about it jumping around too much. But Horn is spot on with her writing, adding just the right sentence about humanity among the statistics. Thanks for making me read these CR.

1. I enjoy reading TC in any format, and I also enjoy reading graphic narratives on any subject. I'll definitely seek out more Geary - it was right up my alley.

2. My copy did have the newspaper articles in the back, and I pored through them with intensity. My degree is history, and I'm always magnetically attracted to source material. For the record, I assumed the 'journal' was purely a fictional device. Which leads me to:

3. Two questions for Rick Geary. A) Where can we go to look at that journal? and B) Do you have an opinion on Whodunnit?

I'm assuming we'll get to speculations on who did it at some point this week, but I just want to throw out there that I started to assume Lizzie was innocent about 1/3 of the way through the book, ended it pretty positive she was guilty, and then spent an entire day doing online research that left me even more firmly convinced both ways. I'd really love to get into a discussion on the merits of the evidence!

PS Did everyone know the Borden house is now a Borden-themed bed & breakfast? I'm not sure if I'd want to visit or not. It's doubtful I could get my husband to go...

Oh, yea - I knew I meant to comment on this more. Thx Jessica for reminding me abt the B&B. I have yet to go visit it nor have I been a tourist of Fall-Riv yet. I can only say that it is extremely easy to get lost with horrible street non-signage and one ways so I'm a bit intimidated (being from the midwest where we had that wonderful GRID system). I'm not sure if there is a museum dedicated to just the Bordens but the town Historical Society has a website where you can buy the Geary book.

Maybe Beth and I should go check it out... :) As a nonnative New Englander, I have been to Plymouth Rock and Salem as a good little tourist.

AND, I was thrilled to see Geary is originally from Kansas. Me, too.

I like your point about GNs sometimes making stories more "feelable." I think that's why I find them challenging, too. Somehow seeing some of the pictures in Stitches made it a lot harder (almost too hard) to read than a regular text would have been. I read GNs like you do, I think--not a whole lot, just trying to keep a little familiar with the format.

I LOVE your description of Horn's writing, with her mix of humanity and statistics. That's just exactly what I loved about it--thank you for describing it much more succinctly than I could have done.

Jessica--now THAT is a good question. It never occurred to me that the memoir might be a device, but I did wonder why it wasn't listed in the source material/references. Hmm....

Yeah, the B&B, I don't know if I could stay there either. I wonder how their business is going these days? And, for the record, I totally know how it goes not seeing things near you. We don't have much here in Wisconsin in huge tourist haunts, but I know I've not seen most of the state parks--one of which has pretty well-known caves, etc.--that are near me. Care, Beth, do you think you're more interested in going to visit the Historical Society in Fall Riv now, confusing streets notwithstanding?

I went to see the Winchester Mystery House and Alcatraz, two somewhat local attractions in my area. I found out a few weeks ago that Oregon, where I grew up, has the most ghost towns of any state, but I've never been to one. Care, it would be awesome to have a first-person account of the Borden house!

Care: We should check it out. It could be a field trip! I keep meaning to see more local sites and whatnot. I feel behind.

CR: about book groups, I have no experience running one, and I keep meaning to figure out the best way to start one. I'd consider using a GN in my book group, but wouldn't choose Persepolis as a starting point. I'd probably choose something like Craig Thompson's Blankets, or perhaps Alison Bechdel's Fun Home as starting points. People often have much to talk about when it comes to well-told coming of age stories.
and as far as the Historical Society, depending on how interesting I found the Borden House, I may be interested in visiting the Historical Society as well.

Ooh, Blankets was fantastic!!! So was Fun Home.

Jessica: have you ever read Goodbye Chunky Rice? It's not a masterpiece like Blankets, but it's very sort of sweet and wonderful. It's also a 10 minute read.

Care, Beth,
Now, no pressure here, but you MUST go to Fall Riv and tell us what you find. :)

Beth, I'll also be interested to hear if you start a book group. Has your library ever thought about hosting one online? I myself never actually make it out the door to library book groups, but I wouldn't mind commenting on their blogs or something.

I still have to read "Goodbye Chunky Rice." Another librarian friend of mine was always suggesting that. Thanks for the reminder!

Yeah, I loved Goodbye Chunky Rice. I was surprised by how different the drawing style was between the two books.

CR: I've actually been very inspired to try a book group online for the library (or possibly an online aspect). I'm going to try to start one perhaps in the spring. I have a friend in one that I work with, so perhaps she can help me.

And I just wanted to say to everyone here (particularly Eva, Jessica, Care and other people that do challenges and have blogs) that because of all of you I am now obsessed with the idea of getting my act together and rebirthing my blog (and apparently making up words as well) and I'm doing the Countdown Book Challenge. So thanks very much ;)

When you get a book group, do let me know how it goes, won't you?

I very much look forward to the rebirth of your blog! I've never been very good at book/blog Challenges myself, but I would just like to say I really appreciate everyone's willingness to chat in this online book group--especially when you all make great suggestions for further reading! I can't wait to chase down some of the titles mentioned here.

oh good - I was going to ask Beth "Do you have a blog?" If I don't get called in to sub at the HS tomorrow (and I'm hoping not?) then I might wander around FR...

Beth does in fact have a blog, at http://speak-freely-now.blogspot.com/ (Beth, I hope it's okay I'm posting that; it's linked from your name so I figured you wouldn't mind).

Care, you'd probably like the work/want to get called in, but if you don't and do wander around FR, I hope you have a really good time. You can regale us with tales about the "lay of the land"!

i promise the blog will be up soon. i am without my beloved netbook, which means i have to share my desktop with the husband, and the room it's in, well, it's not exactly conducive to, um, anything, especially writing.

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