Tag Archives: Craig Thompson

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…

building-stories-book-open-box-chris-ware-1

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?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Fun Home – Alison Bechdel

Jonathan Cape, paperback, 2006, graphic novel/memoir, 240 pages, kindly given to me by Sarah on The Book Barge

I do think that sometimes fate determines when you see a book. I had never heard of ‘Fun Home’ by Alison Bechdel until Rebecca Makkai recommended it when she did her Savidge Reads Grills. A mere week or so after that I was on the book barge and what did I see? Yes, ‘Fun Home’ by Alison Bechdel, and Sarah very kindly said I could have it (along with ‘Trilby’ by George Du Maurier – lovely stuff) in exchange for the M&S picnic I had brought. I offered to pay for these, the look I got told me it was completely out of the question. So like I said, sometimes fate seems to thrust a book in your direction. Sometimes it then takes you several months to read it but never mind.

‘Fun  Home’ is Alison Bechdel’s memoirs told through a graphic novel, which was a concept that I found really intriguing.  It was also one I wasn’t sure would work, would I feel an emotional connection with the images in front of me, or could this read like a cartoon? I can now say that ‘Fun Home’ is in the latter category and as I followed the fictional/illustrated/memory drawn Alison from her childhood, when after inheriting it her family all moved into the family business… a funeral home, to her dealings with the death of her father and their relationship and indeed her own sexuality, the latter she discovered interestingly through books.

It’s hard to say any more on the novel than that. Though it does feel like a novel and I pondered, with all its references to Camus, Fitzgerald and other authors (who Alison’s dad loved and seemed to add the personalities of to his own) if the influence and subsequent love of books gave it that extra edge? It could of course simply be that this is a blooming brilliant novel regardless of its form and that I instead shop stop the subconscious part of my brain which says ‘this is a graphic novel, thats not quite the same as a normal novel’ and get over it. I think I have because I was read this like a novel, I didn’t just sit and read it in one go, I would read a chapter here and there as usual and was thinking of it when I put it down, not as a graphic novel but just as a book I was enjoying.

It is hard to say anymore about the book really without spoilers. It has that mixture or coming of age memoir, gothic reminiscence and family tragedy and comedy that I love when I find just the right combination of. I laughed out loud but it wasn’t saccharine, it was honest without being malicious or brutal, it was emotional without being woe-is-me and I liked the tone of the book. I liked Alison Bechdel and I wanted more of her story.

I used to think that graphic novels were just really big comics for grown up kids, its examples like ‘Fun Home’ that continue to prove my wrong and show that graphic novels can offer you the full formed personality of characters and evoke their situations and the atmospheres that they are surrounded by. People are probably rolling their eyes at that but that has been the case on the whole for me until now, though other graphic novels have been good they have never felt like the give everything that a normal ‘book’ does like ‘Fun Home’ has, and here I must mention ‘Blankets’ by Craig Thompson, where the images become fully formed and not just the illustrated escapism in front of your eyes.

I am hoping people might now give me lots of suggestions of other graphic novels in this vein that will keep proving the former graphically challenged me wrong. My co-conspirator on ‘The Readers’, Gav, has recently been saying how brilliant ‘The House That Groaned’ by Karrie Fransman is. Has anyone else read that one and can concur? Any other graphic novels I should be looking for?

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Filed under Alison Bechdel, Graphic Novels, Jonathan Cape Publishers, Review

Blankets – Craig Thompson

I do always like to thank the people that have put me in the direction of a book that I have gone out and found and then really enjoyed. In  the case of ‘Blankets’ by Craig Thompson I would have to list most of the book blogosphere because I have seen this here there and everywhere and everyone has loved it. I will admit that I wasn’t sure it would be my kind of thing, I don’t know why but somewhere the idea that graphic novels aren’t proper novels has been placed. Thank goodness for libraries and being able to take a risk with a book now and again, especially one which breaks your reading impasse, as now that prejudice has been erased once and for all.

‘Blankets’ is a graphic novel but it also feels like a fully built novel. I am not saying that I don’t think the two can co-exist but it’s rare when they have this effect on me personally. There are two strands running through ‘Blankets’. The first is the tale of two brothers Craig and Phil and their childhood in the strict, highly religious and rather scary family home in Wisconsin, the second of two young people falling in love for the very first time. In a way it’s like two separate coming of age (a subject I am not normally a fan of) events and times in one persons formulative years.

What impressed me first of all was how Thompson manages to interweave these two strands in a way that isn’t confusing. He doesn’t need to insert ‘flashback’ or ‘present’ and ‘past’ the pictures paint it all clearly (excuse the poor terminology) and what illustrations these are. I definitely wasn’t expecting to have an emotional connection with this book. I thought I would be entertained and pick it up now and again. Instead I read it in three sittings, I was hooked. The pictures convey, as do the choice wordings throughout, the emotions of both growing up in the severity that Craig does and how he feels when love first hits.

The second thing that impressed me was how Craig covers a lot of modern subjects that are quite tough just in the written form (not that I am saying one medium is better than the other). Through ‘Blankets’ Thompson encapsulates a world which at varying points features mental and physical disabilities, religion, sexuality, child abuse, depression, divorce, families and most of all love.

It really has left me wondering if you can call a graphic novel epic, if so then ‘Blankets’ is indeed a modern epic. I would be surprised, but pleasantly so, if there were any graphic novels that can better this on both artistic and emotional levels. 9/10

I am obviously in an adventurous mood because not long after I read this I decided to try some ‘steampunk’ another genre that I have been a little dubious about. You will have to wait a little while to see my thoughts on that specific genre. Have there been any genres that you were, possibly for no reason, adamant that you wouldn’t love and then tried and did? Can you remember the titles? Did you ever look back? Can any of you recommend any other stupendous graphic novels to keep me fixed?

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Filed under Books of 2010, Craig Thompson, Graphic Novels, Review, Top Shelf Productions