Monday, November 2, 2009
The Graphic Novel... a new genre for me
I have just discovered the joy of reading the graphic novel in an attempt to make myself a more "well-rounded" librarian. For those of you in my generation who may not know what a graphic novel is, it is a novel whose story is told through a combination of words and art, often in comic-strip form. Like all books, all graphic novels are not created equal. Kids at my high school mainly tend to read manga, or Japanese-style comics. I don't care for this style, personally, though I understand the appeal. I think it is similar in appeal to the comic books I used to devour as a kid, like Archie, Superman, or my old favorite, Mad Magazine.
The graphic novels that I prefer are the ones that tell a story, sometimes autobiographical and incorporate a variety of artistic styles. I do not prefer the ones that are too much like comics with small voice bubbles and lots of frames per page. It may be a function of my age, but I prefer to have larger frames and I like looking at the art as I read. If my eyes have to work too hard, I might as well be reading a regular novel.
Two graphic novels that I've recently read and enjoyed are Blankets and Tales from Outer Suburbia.
Blankets by Craig Thompson was recommended to me by a new student. It is a coming-of-age tale about a boy who is raised in a very strict, fundamentalist Christian home who is not encouraged by his family or his church to use his artistic abilities, but rather to give them up in favor of more holy vocations like being a minister. I could relate to many of the author's dilemmas and problems. When he went to school he was shunned or teased. When he went to church related events, he never quite fit in. And then there was the tender young love story that caused me to reflect back on my teen years. I was very moved while reading this lengthy graphic novel. The artistry is consistently good and moves the story along. Don't be intimidated by the size of this book. It reads very fast with so many pictures.
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan is a series of fifteen illustrated vignettes. Each of the stories are "out there" but are fun, whimsical, or thought provoking. My favorite vignettes are Eric, an outer-space alien as an exchange student, and a poem about what happens to most poems. The artistic style changes with each vignette making each stand out in a very unique way. Tan won many awards for his graphic book, The Arrival, and I bet that this book will win a bunch also. It deserves it. It will take you less than an hour to read but give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the drawings.
Take time to enjoy a new genre along with me.