Getting Graphic!

Yesterday I was talking about one set of books that I am really rubbish at making myself read even though I often really enjoy them, those big mammoth books. Today I am bringing another type, or genre is probably more apt, of book that I often enjoy but don’t read so much because they are a field that I know nothing about… The graphic novel!

I have in my time writing Savidge Reads read a few graphic novels, but only nine (though there was a tenth we don’t talk about) in almost six years really isn’t enough to my mind, especially when I think of how many books I read over a year, it doesn’t even really make 1% of my reading diet and this seems a real shame. Especially when I have loved some so much, ‘Blankets’ by Craig Thompson is easily my favourite so far.

Well, thanks to some books I owned, some that arrived and some I went and got at the library I am going to try and change all that, starting with this selection…

Getting Graphic

First up, though probably the last one that I will try as I have had it since my birthday and simply don’t want to open it, is ‘Building Stories’ by Chris Ware. This is a book I got insanely excited about after reading some marvellous reviews and then seeing (the legend that is) Marieke Hardy talking about it on ‘The First Tuesday Book Club’. I asked for it for my birthday, wanting to try out a book that isn’t a book but is, yet since very kindly being bought it have been too afraid to open it. Once you do it tells a story by looking like this…


Amazing right? So maybe I need to break the seal and just get on with it. Before I do though, see procrastinating again, I am going to give some others a whirl and the first three are from the library. I have heard from many graphic novel lovers, and also just book lovers, that ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman is possibly one of the best graphic novels you could ever read and so when I saw it in the library (are graphic novels like gold dust everyone else’s library too?) I grabbed it instantly.

I also grabbed ‘The Adventuress’ by Audrey Niffenegger as I love her non-graphic books and enjoyed ‘The Night Bookmobile’ which I borrowed from another library a few years ago. The final one that simply had to come home with me was a ‘Batman’ graphic novel which I have a bit of a geeky thing about comic wise, and this one doubly ticked the boxes as it featured Catwoman on the cover. This does make me ponder the question of where does the divide come between a graphic novel and an extended comic?

Let us move on (though comment if you would like) from that can of worms swiftly with the final book which arrived through my letter box the other day. ‘The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil’ by Stephen Collins, which no is not a biography of me or my life as some of you asked on Twitter, rude. This I have wanted to read for ages as, well, I have a thing about facial hair and love the fact there is a book about evil facial hair.

I should here mention that Rob and Kate have done an episode about graphic novels on ‘Adventures with Words’ recently, I can’t comment on what they said as I haven’t had chance to listen to it yet, but you might like to pop by and have a listen and get their thoughts. What are your thoughts on graphic novels though? Do you think they count as a novel? Where is the divide between a very long comic and a graphic novel? Which ones I haven’t got, or read, would you recommend I try and look up when I can?


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

11 responses to “Getting Graphic!

  1. I don’t think there is a difference between graphic novel and comic – it’s a marketing ploy, to sell to adults who are embarassed to be seen reading comics. Or, as Neil Gaiman put it: ‘it’s like telling a hooker that she is actually a lady of the night’. I am fortunate to live in France, though, where BD (which is the generic name here for both comics and graphic novels) are very much appreciated. We have a bookshop here in the village/small town (population 6000) dedicated to BD, for both adults and children.

  2. You will LOVE Building Stories. 😉

  3. Boondocks, Calvin and Hobbes, V for Vendetta, Watchmen,….

  4. I haven’t read many graphic novels, but I’m inclined to think that some are very long comics but there are many that are much more, or that take the form and really stretch it. Aside from Maus, which I see you have, I’d direct you to Poem Strip by Dino Buzzati, in print as an NYRB Classic.

  5. mcresswell

    ‘Graphic novel’ is really just a nice way of saying ‘comic’ so that the kind of people who usually read ‘literature’ don’t feel bad about it. I’m not saying that sniffily, because I’m frequently guilty of being accused of reading a comic (by which the person means a throwaway story for kids) and stropping ‘no, it’s a graphic novel!’ That being said, the comic genre is hugely wide, and does take in everything from your incredibly rich, subtle works of art (Maus, Blankets, etc.–have you also heard of Stitches?) right through to pumped out trash. Its just the bottom end gets called comics, and the rest get lumped in with that word too. Using images as a storytelling method is no different from saying two writers use words as a storytelling method but one spins storytelling magic, and the other cobbles together lumpen sentences… it’s just everyone thinks the whole genre is the latter.

    I think my metaphors may have become a bit mixed. Anyway: my graphic novel recommendations to anyone are always: Fun Home, Blankets and Sandman, so you’re down by at least one, and I think you’ve reviewed Fun Home on here before. So just Sandman…!

  6. I also bought Building Stories once I saw Marieke share it. I love it. I got the Great Gatsby graphic novel out of the library and that was good fun too. Our library seems to have a good collection of graphic novels here in Hobart. I think they are a fun change but I’m the first to admit they seem to be just overblown comic books which I loved as a child.

  7. The distinction between comics and graphic novels (if there is one!) is so amorphous, as far as I can tell, that I’ve given up on it. I just always say “comics” now, as some graphic novels–like Maus–are graphic nonfiction anyway. But Building Stories is a very, very cool book (if quite sad). I love how inventive Chris Ware is. I hope you enjoy it!

  8. As I understand it, a book that began life as a series of (usually) weekly comics is strictly a trade hardback/trade paperback, whereas a graphic novel was always book-length. But I may be wrong about that. I’m hardly an aficionado.

    I have loved some examples of both. Y: the Last Man by Brian K Vaughan and Pia Guerra is brilliant, as are the first two League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Watchmen. And I like comic-style journalism/memoir too, such as Palestine by Joe Sacco or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

    I won’t deny that I sometimes turn to a graphic novel/whatever-we’re-calling-them when I want an easy quick read between other books, but that doesn’t always turn out to be the case. For instance, Neil Gaiman’s old comic stuff is totally crazy, nonlinear and complex. Beautiful, but certainly not easy reading!

  9. David

    The odd thing is, despite spending most of my teens wanting to be a comic book artist and even now earning my living drawing pictures, I don’t read graphic novels. I do try and keep vaguely aware of what is going on in mainstream comics from an art point of view, though the only series I buy is ‘Morning Glories’, but I’m not particularly interested in reading them when I could be enjoying a good novel. Still, I really must get around to reading ‘The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil’ as I’ve “known” Stephen online for years via a couple of illustration forums.

  10. Louise Trolle

    I love love Shaun Tan ‘s graphic novels, but it really depends on whether I like the drawing style. Wating on my shelf is also “Habibi”, which I’m excited about

  11. Just dropping in belatedly to recommend Saga, though I’m sure Gavin has probably recommended it to you by now. It’s on the “comic” side of “graphic novels”, but it’s definitely not for children.

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