Safe Area Gorazde isn't an objective account of the war in Bosnia, nor is it so biased as to render the reader skeptical or disbelieving. It does, how...moreSafe Area Gorazde isn't an objective account of the war in Bosnia, nor is it so biased as to render the reader skeptical or disbelieving. It does, however, question the very nature of being a reporter (or cartoonist) in a situation such as a civil war. Sacco repeatedly discusses the ethics of his role as a documenter, as well as the actions of other reporters who remain in Gorazde. Sacco's point seems to be that ultimately you cannot really know Gorazde and the situation there and yet remain objective about the conflict. That is, understanding the civil war in Bosnia necessitates that you forsake a central tenet of professional journalism. Whether you agree with him or not on this, his book at the very least forces us to ask what we really want out of our news reporting.(less)
The People of Paper is a novel about writing a novel. It follows, at the beginning, two separate storylines that are in fact inseparable. Salvador "Sa...moreThe People of Paper is a novel about writing a novel. It follows, at the beginning, two separate storylines that are in fact inseparable. Salvador "Saturn" Plascencia is an aspiring novelist whose girlfriend leaves him when it becomes apparent that he cannot balance the novel and his relationship with her. The second storyline involves the novel's characters, Froggy, Little Merced, Sandra, Federico de la Fe, etc. Living in El Monte, Federico de la Fe decides he can no longer stand the omnipresence of Saturn, and creates EMF--an organization that declares war on omniscient narration. No longer do the members of EMF want Saturn watching all that they do. The two storylines eventually collide, as Saturn attempts to make sense of his novel and the decisions he must face in writing a fictional/autobiographical novel.
The first thing I thought of when I flipped open the book was Tristram Shandy. This isn't formatted, for one thing, like your "normal" novel--large chunks are blacked out, some pages are blank, one of the characters speaks in images. The People of Paper, not unlike TS, is a story utterly about narration. Narration switches from character to character, with pages generally divided into two columns, each column with a new narrator. So, for example, on page 29, sections of the story are narrated by Little Merced and a Glue Sniffer.
This novel is unlike anything else I have ever read, for what that is worth. I can't say what the novel is "about"--it is about, above all, the act of creating a literary work or literary subjects. It is also about mechanical turtles, a baby who forsees the future, past and present, a Catholic saint who is also a Mexican wrestler, a woman who purposefully infects her own body with bee poison, and a couple who spend their time breaking down the aphorisms of Napoleon Bonaparte.
An excerpt from the prologue:
Antonio split the spines of books, spilling leaves of Austen and Cervantes, sheets from Leviticus and Judges, all mixing with the pages of The Book of Incandescent Light. Then Antonio unrolled the wrapping paper and construction paper and began to cut at the cardboard and then fold.
She was the first to be created: cardboard legs, cellophane appendix, and paper breasts. Created not from the rib of a man but from paper scraps. There was no all-powerful god who could part the rivers of Pison and Gihon, but instead a twice-retired old man with cuts across his fingers.
Antonio was passed out on the floor, flakes of paper stuck to the sweat of his face and arms, unable to hear the sound of expanding paper as she rose. His hands were bloody, pooling the ink of his body on the floor, staining his pants. She stepped over her creator, spreading his blood across the polished floor, and then walked out of the factory and into the storm. The print of her arms smeared; her soaked feet tattered as they scrapped against wet pavement and turned her toes to pulp.(less)
This series is based on such a great concept, but it just doesn't quite pan out. This is a great comic series, but not a very good graphic novel. For...moreThis series is based on such a great concept, but it just doesn't quite pan out. This is a great comic series, but not a very good graphic novel. For one thing, the pacing is off--the books are shorter than Moore's The Watchmen or V for Vendetta so he has a lot less room to develop the characters and (more specifically) the interactions between characters. I think this might also be due to the fact that he's using already established fictional personalities, so he has to introduce them first, and then break those personality traits down and reinvent them. So, when we first meet Mina Murray, she's no longer Mina Harker, but a divorcee. By far the best character in the series is Nemo and it is a shame that he doesn't play a larger role in the stories.
The story plots are also somewhat problematic--they are simultaneously under and overdeveloped. They just don't suit the format, and I think the books would be a lot more successful if they were longer. This series also lacks a lot of the really interesting doubling that goes on V or Watchmen. The interaction between the main plot and the pirate story in Watchmen, for example, is so delicate and yet engaging, but that kind of layering is sadly absent from League.
All that said, the series is still amazing. The images are incredible, and the stories are quite good. Just not as good as Moore's earlier work. (less)
**spoiler alert** The "high school" story is pretty well established, and in many ways Black Hole doesn't deviate from the genre standards. Pair of st...more**spoiler alert** The "high school" story is pretty well established, and in many ways Black Hole doesn't deviate from the genre standards. Pair of star-crossed lovers? Check. The Nerdy vs. the Cool? Check. Drugs, alcohol, and awkward sex? Check. Teen angst directed mostly at the parents who ruin their lives? Well, that one would work if any adults lasted in this book for more than four panels. But the thing is, if you are going to have a teen plague that distorts infected bodies so that kids grow tails, bumps, horns, or webbing, then having adults in your story kind of gets in the way of . . . everything. This is a story that persistently resists any kind of resolution, and it seems to suggest that adults are simply that--resolution. Adults are what teens become when they settle down into a life that attempts to eliminate through acceptance or rejection the odd and the grotesque and no one in this book is quite there yet; Chris ambiguously ends up floating in the Sound, and while Eliza and Keith have "escaped," their dream of finding a safe place is brittle at best. Sure, the desert is bright, suffused with the kind of white spaces that are noticeably absent in the panels depicting Seattle, but it is a brightness that is fairly empty. And besides, Keith and Eliza's hotel room is disturbingly dark. Sure, they've found each other, but Chris's mantra that Rob could be everything for her isn't guaranteed to work for Keith and Eliza.
I used to teach this in my freshman composition class--I thought it would be a good way to talk about the transition from being a high school teenager to being a college adult. I was very surprised by the reactions to this text: 1.) disgust/dismissal and 2.) the majority of the students read this as a warning against teen sex and drug abuse. Huh? Part of me thinks that the average middle class kid is so conditioned to think that drugs, sex, and alcohol are bad, bad, bad (in and of themselves), that this was mostly a knee-jerk reaction. But the oddity of the book seems to be that you can only really appreciate the idea of transition in the novel (the movement from narrator to narrator, the shift from cool kid to outcast, the amphibians littered throughout the text, or going from "normal" to "mutant") if you've already experienced that transition. Or, alternatively, if you are at the fringes of the social structure described in the novel--if you are the "weirdo" kid in high school, rather than a Chris, Keith, or Rob type. That said, I think it was really worthwhile teaching this text to my freshmen--I think it is the kind of novel that will stay with them (not to mention get passed around in a "I had to read this for college" sort of way). Eventually quite a few of them will have a headslap moment in which they finally figure out that the book is a lot less about the consequences of teen sex, and a lot more about the consequences of growing up. (less)