In Other Words Book Club discussion


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message 1: by Kate (last edited Feb 25, 2009 03:34AM) (new)

Kate (whalelegs) | 7 comments Mod
What didn't you get to say about Persepolis at bookclub?

I was hoping to talk some about this graphic novel in comparison with other graphic novels...especially those that really stand out as "THE" graphic novels of the 1980s, like The Watchmen and The Dark Night Returns and Frank Miller's stuff. Has anyone else read some of that stuff? Forewarning: I hate The Watchmen and am ready to rip into it.

message 2: by Althea (new)

Althea Lazzaro | 1 comments I started reading the Watchmen on my brother's recommendation. I loved the art, but was pretty uninterested in the story. I finally put it down after the gratuitous sexual assault about halfway through. Ditto for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, though I did actually finish that one.

message 3: by Kate (new)

Kate (whalelegs) | 7 comments Mod
the illustrations that satrapi uses are so incredibly different than the art for Watchmen and whatnot. I mean the stories are hugely different too but I was thinking about the art and it occurs to me that:

The drawings for Persepolis are very childlike. That is NOT to say that they aren't complicated and rife with emotion, but just that they are technically more simple (of course it takes a lot of skill to put so much into such a simple drawing, but don't focus on that right now). I think that her way of drawing really works for telling a story from the child's pov. Persepolis 2 is maybe less interesting to me because the illustrations don't align with the story quite as well. The first book really moves me because it shows a child trying to integrate an increasingly complex reality into their innocent worldview. The simplistic black and white illustations lend themselves perfectly to that. Satrapi is capturing extremely complicated subject matter beautifully in these simple, black and white drawings.

For me, the narrative of the second book doesn't mesh as well with Satrapi's drawing style.

Does any of that make sense? Probably not. I wonder if world view is one world or two.

message 4: by Abigail (last edited Mar 30, 2008 05:42AM) (new)

Abigail | 1 comments This book club sounds fun, hope you don't mind putting my thoughts in from London.

I just finished reading Persepolis and I really enjoyed it. Katy I keep reading what you say about the second book and I just don't completely agree. After reading your quote I thought I wouldn't like it, but I enjoyed it just as much as the first. Obviously, the first book made you smile more, and child Satrapi was adorable. However, I appreciated her honesty in dealing with the uncomfortablity and loneliness of a transnational identity. I felt like I could identify with the fact that she didn't really feel at home in Austria, and that when she returned to Iran she experienced a similar feeling of being too 'cultured.' I think that anyone who has spent serious time abroad knows what this is like, how difficult adjustment can be, and probably even more so for someone who moves between two extremely different political environments. Also I appreciated the honesty of seeing her make mistakes like rushing into marriage, and her battles with depression, but like I said in my overall goodreads review I don't think it has the depth that Maus did, she really just glosses over her suicide attempts for example. This is my biggest complaint.

Regarding illustration, I've read Watchmen, among others, and I don't think you can really compare the two just based on illustration. Watchmen is a fictional story using a particular graphic style. Like you, I didn't like Watchmen as a story, but I did like the graphics, the weird-dark color palette, etc. Persepolis is a memoir and I think Satrapi made the right decision to stick to the simplistic and black and white. Graphic choice in comic books is always tied to the content of the literature itself. One of the thinks about cartoons/comics is that the simpler or more abstract the figure is the more you recognize it as yourself, and the more interactive the literature becomes. The more detailed and realistic it is the more you recognize it as someone else, the actual character. Having such simplistic style allows its accessibility to more women. Even if people never actually been to these places, experience such history, they can start to imagine and identify what it might be like as they are able to see themselves in the character. This is why she can't switch drawing style in the second book.

What I think Persepolis was actually missing was more detailed backgrounds that provided more information on the physical setting. A contrast between a simplistic figure and more detailed background is style used in some comic books, and I think could of helped here. Also the movement between panels has a higher amont of aspect-aspect sequences then the average western comic. You really have to rely on the text for complete narration. This is one of the reasons why I'm looking forward to the movie, and to see how they decided to fill in what's missing between the panels. Could go on forever, but will stop here.

BTW, I started reading The Bone People, it's very good, however boring at times.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I liked both of these books. Kate, good point about the topics of the second book contrasting a with the drawing style. For me, it worked, maybe be because I read the books one after another. I can see how elements of the book could being more hard-hitting without the simple drawings (depression, homelessness, suicide). On the other hand, I love Satrapi's graphic depiction of her adolescent transformation, and I think her drawings serve many of the lighter scenes well, particularly those in the beginning of the second book.
Abagail, good point: "the simpler or more abstract the figure is the more you recognize it as yourself, and the more interactive the literature becomes. " I think the simple drawings emphasize the universality of Satrapi's story. I agree that they do make more sense in the first book, but I think they work in the second as well.

Bottom line: I need to read more graphic novels. Any recommendations? I think the only other graphic novel I've read is Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware, which is BRILLIANT.

message 6: by Kate (new)

Kate (whalelegs) | 7 comments Mod
definitely read Fun Home, which was an early book club book that i didn't go to the discussion for. so maybe everyone else hated it but i loved it to bits.

satrapi's honest is definitely beautiful. unfortunately it can also be very frustrating to a reader who's been conditioned to agree or disagree with opinions as opposed to integrating them into your own though process. i think we're all sort of told these days that what is happening NOW doesn't matter as much, and what we have to say isn't as thoughtful or important as whatever exists as a BOOK. so we sort of lay claim to books (and bands and movies) to represent what we think of as ourselves. (I'll call it the Facebook Favorites Effect.)

the problem is that any memoir with a damn doesn't come and go with a bold, concise statement, but really does present a snapshot of a complicated, murky world. so here i am as a reader, looking for satrapi to tell me exactly what's what because i have chosen to respect her. but of course she's much to intelligent to write some simple little Aesop's Fable, so i'm left feeling appreciative but also lost.

the kicker with all of this is that she deals with it herself. i think that's what is so accessible about the books (even though Satrapi's life is so incredibly different from mine). she's a girl searching for a guide just like so many of us. and she definitely recognizes and finds humorous the process of building an identity on the written word - there's that great scene where she's read some feminist lit and tries to pee standing up, only to find it running down her leg. also there are so many people who turn writers' names into theoretical buzz words - I'm thinking specifically of the Austrian semi-intellectuals.

bottom line: satrapi is a brilliant writer whose honesty and ambivalence hurts my contemporary, soundbyting, facebooked mind.

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