This is an acclaimed autobiographical comic in the tradition of Spiegelman’s Maus. I saw the film version of this years ago, and loved it. The book isThis is an acclaimed autobiographical comic in the tradition of Spiegelman’s Maus. I saw the film version of this years ago, and loved it. The book is a great read, but for some reason it didn’t grab me quite as much as the film did.
Persepolis is a collection of vignettes from Satrapi’s childhood and early adolescence, as she was growing up during the early throes of the Iranian Revolution. Each vignette is a self-contained story, though they all connect through Satrapi’s maturation from a naïve girl into an outspoken teenager. This first volume ends with her parents sending her away to study abroad, so she doesn’t run afoul of the tightening strictures of the Islamic cultural revolution. Satrapi’s family is modern and well-to-do, and so the story unfolds much like the play Cabaret: they go about their days as best they can, while the coming dictatorship creeps gradually up around them.
The black-and-white art is simple, but expressive. Small, utilitarian panels occasionally give way to large, artistic spreads, especially when Satrapi recalls some of the more horrifying events of the revolution. Satrapi herself is adorable, at least in her portrayal of herself as somewhat sheltered young girl that plays at being a revolutionary while the dire consequences of actual revolution play out around her. Despite the praise that gets heaped on this book, though, I never really got excited about it. It was definitely an enjoyable read, and offers a very interesting perspective on a people that western readers often don’t know anything about. But for some reason, I couldn’t really get swept up in it.
That being said, it’s a great historical comic, and Satrapi sets up some particularly powerful moments (particularly at the end). Despite my being somewhat underwhelmed on a personal level, I’d still peg this as a must-read for fans of the “graphic novel” format....more
I found the idea of a graphic novel biography of physicist Richard Feynman to be so quirky and interesting that I was fairly excited to get my hands oI found the idea of a graphic novel biography of physicist Richard Feynman to be so quirky and interesting that I was fairly excited to get my hands on a copy. Feynman is a bit of a book searching for an audience, but it ultimately encompasses a fascinating man’s interesting life and complicated ideas in a fairly accessible way.
Ottaviani presents this biography as a memoir told by Feynman himself, drawn from various primary sources. The book begins with Feynman’s early life and first marriage, along with his early studies in physics that culminated in some important contributions to the Manhattan Project. The narrative follows his groundbreaking work in quantum electrodynamics, including the invention of the famous notations that bear his name. Along the way, the reader is treated to various anecdotes and hilarious asides on everything from cargo cult science and the perils of accepting a Nobel Prize to Feynman’s tendencies toward safecracking and ogling pretty girls. The meaty graphic novel takes a hard left in the second half, where the largest section of the book is dedicated to Feynman’s famous lectures attempting to explain quantum electrodynamics to the layperson. However, by the time the reader gets to the end, where Feynman approaches his own illness and death with characteristic smarm and wit, they are left with a vivid impression of both who Richard Feynman was and the important contributions he made to modern science.
Myrick’s artwork is interesting. It has a comic-strip feel that sets a scene without being too slick or fancy for its own good. I don’t know if I’d call it attractive, especially considering that it can occasionally be hard to tell characters apart. The faces are beautifully expressive in clean, simple ways, though. Also, Myrick occasionally shakes things up with the injection of random magical realism and, naturally, plenty of scientific diagrams.
I admit that while I’ve always been fascinated by physics, I’ve never had a head for mathematical rigor. Thus, even though I found “the lectures” engaging, I had a hard time following some parts of them even though they are made for people like me. Even so, that made the occasional moments of understanding that much more illuminating. Honestly, I think being exposed to something as complicated as quantum field theory through the medium of a graphic novel helped a great deal, regardless of what that says about my intellect. Especially considering that the actual hard science is incidental, in this case, to the story of the man himself.
The biography is told in a disjointed fashion, comprised of a series of vignettes that are only loosely connected in any chronological order. This takes some getting used to, but ultimately transcribes a life in the way it should be experienced: messy and unexpected. The book covers all of the major facets of Feynman’s life- the atomic bomb, the Nobel Prize, the Challenger Disaster commission, the lectures– but it also chronicles the shenanigans of a hilarious eccentric, and presents the various tragedies in his life with a poignancy born of no-frills simplicity and honesty.
Though there are already a couple of books on Feynman’s life and work that would be good introductions to the general reader, I’d place this one at the head of the pack. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that I spent a decade being too intimidated to pick up one of those books, and after reading this I'm eager to jump in. Most importantly for me, the book has enough heft to it to be a satisfying read for a graphic novel. While hard-nosed scientists and comic enthusiasts with mainstream tastes may not find what they are looking for here, I’d recommend this to general readers as a fantastic story about an insanely interesting person, and to those already familiar with Richard Feynman as a fun, graphical take on the man....more