Friday, November 02, 2007

pen and ink

So I read two really great graphic novels lately. (A word of thanks to the Chicago Public Library system for stocking this totally awesome frm of literature in the first place. I almost forgive you for your ridiculous system for processing returned books downtown.)
First was Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, longtime writer of the Dykes to Watch Out For strips. The novel deals with her relationship to her father, a closeted gay man who raised his family in a small rural town, working as a funeral home director and high school literature teacher while meticulously and ridiculously restoring the family home in his spare time. He either accidentally died or (as the family and certainly Bechdel seem to believe) killed himself when she was twenty, months after she herself came out to her family. Sounds melodramatic and it is, but also kind of beautiful and gorgeously self-reflective. The story cycles; we hear the same parts in different ways in different sections of the novel, but each time a part reappears it has been fleshed out by what happened since you last saw it. Bechdel's relationship with her father is extremely complicated, and she doesn't shy away from admitting that perhaps what she is saying about him is entirely based on what she wants to believe, what fits into the narrative that she has written to explain all of this, and is not necessarily in any way true. The book is also framed in terms of books that her father loved and introduced her to, such as Remembrance of Things Past and especially Ulysses as well as other texts. I loved the structure and the gentle but inflexible tone, and I can see why it was such a popular book last year. Really great :)
The next book I read was the original graphic strip (published in installments and then gather into book form, I believe) of V for Vendetta. I loved the movie and had heard that the strip was significantly different, plus I've always been a stickler for original sources for movies. The book was great, of course, but I wish I had read it before because I was unable to seperate my comparisons to the movie from my reading. The differences are mostly small (if you haven't seen or read it and want to, perhaps you should stop reading here). The book has many more supporting characters and is a little less... sympathetic is not quite the right word, but perhaps just a little harsher with motivations of generally "good" characters like Finch. Also, much of what I remember as being revealed nearer to the end of the movie as a climactic discovery (V's "birth", etc.) are revelaed extremely early on in the book. I got about a third of the way through and felt like the entire movie had already been covered, so what was going to happen now? The movie, on the other hand, didn't cut out much plot (mostly just backstory and minor characters), but the additions they made were some of my favorite parts. I mean, the part that I loved the most (V mailing Guy Fawkes masks to the general populace and fomenting an uprising) is absent from the book. Which is perhaps more realistic, but not quite so... stirring.
Well, running out of time again, hopefully I'll write again soon.


Raquel Laneri said...

Ooh! I had seen Fun Home and thought it looked good, but now I def. will check it out!!!

I haven't seen the movie V but I read the book. I was a little disappointed, because I thought the ideas were good but it was a little heavy-handed and obvious. Plus Moore has such a god-like status among comix people, that I really wanted to be like blown away by it. Oh well.

erica said...

ooh, graphic novels can be wonderful...i need to start reading them again. thanks for the recommendations!

ammie said...

1) Yes, read Fun Home and let me know what you think!
2) Watch V for Vendetta. I don't know if it's less heavy handed, but it's definitely interesting to see how they re-structured the plot timing (for instance, I believe that most of the background info of who V is, etc., doesn't come out until considerably later) and how they kind of consolidated things to make it more precise.

Anonymous said...

Omigod, I *LOVED* Fun Home. As soon as I'd read it, I knew I would have to own it.
I've neither read nor seen the movie V for Vendetta, but I'll check it out. ;)

Anonymous said...

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci was a really fun, well-written graphic novel I read recently, too.