To see a preview of the art be sure to check out this review on my blog, Reading Robyn!
When I think of North Korea I find it incredibly difficult to w...moreTo see a preview of the art be sure to check out this review on my blog, Reading Robyn!
When I think of North Korea I find it incredibly difficult to wrap my head around. There are a lot of How's? and Why's? attached to it and I always leave my search for answers with more questions. One being shown on the cover of Guy Delisle's, 'Pyongyang'. When I think of North Korea I think of a country staged for a performance to the entire outside world. Sometimes it's a performance of threat and danger and other times it's a performance of perfection. Either way, what I see is something rather confusing and scary even.
In Guy Delisle's graphic novel we get a look inside of North Korea unlike most others. As a foreigner, Guy is staying in Pyongyang for two months working as an animator for a French company. This alone was fascinating. When asking the question: "Who is traveling to North Korea?" Animators wasn't among the answers I was expecting. He is given a guide and a translator that follow his every move and spends most of his time working or seeing the tourist sights.
This graphic novel is very much about the bubble he lived in as someone visiting the country. We don't get a look at North Korea overall and we don't get to see much behind the curtain of the North Korean production as Guy walks within the strict perimeters he's given. It's a different perspective then what I was expecting, but a worthwhile read for the experience of Guy's day to day life in this unseen world.
The art in this book is a very important part of the narrative. The expressiveness and movement of the people tells you a lot about their individual character. From the foreigner friends Guy makes to the North Koreans who act as his co-workers and his guides. Although every person has an important part in the story of Guy's experiences, we don't get to know a whole lot about them. You have to rely a lot on the character design to tell you things that aren't shared in the narrative.
Speaking of character design the only let down in the art would be the design of Guy himself. This being a memoir of sorts, he has to have his own image in the story. Unfortunately, despite the fact that much of the graphic novel is about his reactions and opinions, his character was stark, simple, paired back compared to other characters, and most of the time drawn without a mouth taking away much of his facial expressions. This as a creative decision doesn't make sense to me considering the tone of the book. But the time and detail spent on the backgrounds and formatting still made the book very visually appealing.
What I appreciated most about Pyongyang was that as a graphic novel it was an easier read for me then if I were to sit down and attempt a 300 page novel about the country. Although it lacked the detail I hoped for about North Korea overall, it has inspired me to look into reading more about the country, especially paying consideration to the aid workers that are given more freedom and see more of the country then people in Guy's position.
Overall, I would recommend it for the curious. It was certainly an interesting introduction to the country and perfect for the graphic novel form. I'll definitely be looking to read more of Guy's travel graphic novels and maybe even more in the travel genre itself.(less)
Stitches is a graphic novel I'm going to have to revisit sometime soon. Having read it just days before my BIG move David Small didn't get nearly enou...moreStitches is a graphic novel I'm going to have to revisit sometime soon. Having read it just days before my BIG move David Small didn't get nearly enough time for me to truly consider this book with any sort of metal capacity. This is the sort of story you have to let stew in your brain for a bit and I look forward to doing just that.
What I can say in the meantime is that this book was difficult to read for me. The genre of graphic novel memoirs is something we see a lot of, but more often than not the people who write and draw them are laying their hearth on the table and letting us poke around inside of it. David Small went above and beyond that in Stitches. The way the books comes together you feel how raw it is. There is no glossy, high-shine moments here. This is a sad story and it is treated as such. Although Small is looking back he keeps his perspective as that of his younger self giving us a pretty vivid depiction of his young adult life. The experiences he shows are not ever given the "and everything turned out okay. I should know, I'm from the future" treatment. The story told here is something you feel. It is heartbreaking and so unforgiving. It hits where it hurts, but it's so worth it.(less)