AFTER A BAD RUN OF READING, KRISSY KNEEN DECIDED TO SPEND A MONTH READING ONLY GRAPHIC NOVELS. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED…
I decided that I would read nothing but Graphic Novels and poetry in 2015. This decision came after a disappointing run of novels that were pleasant enough but didn’t challenge me, then I picked up a graphic novel, Here by Richard McGuire. It was recommended by my favourite graphic novelist Chris Ware. I read it and felt my mind expanding. My brain felt like it buzzed. I could almost feel the new neural pathways doubling. This book had forged new territory in my head.
I had felt the same buzzing when I read Anne Carson’s verse novel The Autobiography of Red earlier in 2014. There was something so pleasurable about the feeling. Thus, my new year’s resolution. I would (temporarily) give up on novels and bury my brain in Graphic Novels and poetry. Of course I didn’t know at the time that Aquarium by David Vann would come out in February, so my resolution – kind of like the one to take up jogging – lasted only a month. BUT WHAT A MONTH!
Avid has a panel discussion coming up on 14th October with Isobelle Carmody and other graphic novelists discussing the form and it prompted me to look back on a few of my favourites.
THE COMPLETE MAUS, Art Speigelman
This is the jewel in the crown of graphic novels and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. A story of a father and son, the frustrations of family and the horrors of the concentration camps. Artie interviews his father about surviving the holocaust and in the process explores his own survivor’s guilt and his own complicated familial relationships. This is a wonderful book. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
Fatherland, Nina Bunjevac
The artwork in this graphic novel is astonishing as is the story. It is the tale of a broken family and a broken country, the former Yugoslavia. In a very moving and personal way we see the division of a country through a family divided by domestic violence and the consequences of a father’s actions. Fans of Persepolis and Palestine or those interested in global and personal politics will love this gorgeously illustrated book.
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant, Roz Chast
For anyone facing the aging process with their parents, this hilarious and at times heartbreaking novel about the aging and deaths of Roz Chast’s frustrating, loving and irritating parents will seem like a slice of truth, one carefully observed with all the witty self-aware skill of a great writer and artist. I know this book will haunt me but I laughed all the way through it.
Kill My Mother, Jules Feiffer
This book is for fans of Hard Boiled Detective novels and Film Noir. It races along with a song and a dance from page to page. Such great rhythm and a killer old-fashioned twist in the tale. Jules Feiffer is a winner of a Pulitzer Prize, and Academy Award, and Obie Award and many many more but this is his first Graphic Novel.
Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware
This Guardian first book award-winning work is a book that changed my life. I remember sitting at the bus stop on the day I finished reading it and finding myself looking at the other passengers, thinking of them not as individuals, but as the product of their genetic inheritance. I wondered if that man with the foot jiggle had a mother or grandfather with the same foot jiggle. I wondered about the woman’s half-smile. Is that her own? Or her mother’s tick? This book tracks back and forth between three generations who all led to the present loneliness of Jimmy Corrigan. I loved this book. I loved Jimmy and I loved that it began my incredible adventures in the graphic novel form.
Here, Richard McGuire
This amazing graphic novel will change the way you think about time and space. The book is set in a corner of a room and spans a large stretch of time from pre-history to the distant future. In the middle of all this families love, die, raise children, and just live. A book to be read over and over again. A book to change your brain.
Everything is Teeth, Evie Wyld and Joe Sumner
Evie Wyld won the Mile Franklin award for her novel All the Birds Singing and all the echoes of unease that simmer away beneath the surface of that novel take shape in the shark that haunts this graphic novel. The illustrations by Joe Sumner are sweet and naive as they picture a young English girl growing up in Australia. Everything in Australia can kill you and this fact seems to lodge in the girl, making her anxious. She becomes obsessed by sharks and these sharks become realistically drawn elements of the graphic novel. She takes her ‘shark’ back to England where it haunts her school life. This book is a tender and true interpretation of the anxieties of youth, cleverly drawn and superbly told.