Friday, June 13, 2008

50 Book Challenge: #4, #5: Sad Comic Books

I am about ten books behind my book blogging, and ten books behind my reading if I am going to read and blog 50 books by January 1, 2009.

Anyway, these will be briefer. These are sad comic books, although they're called "graphic novels", in case you devalue their medium with thoughts of Marvel (which is awesome, so don't think of comics as being less of an art), and unless you think "comic" means funny (this is true; they are not). I've loved comics since I was a kid thumbing through my brother's stacks, and reading the newspaper. My love of comics gets me some mileage with the boys (like my love of baseball), but usually the wrong sort. TD thinks that this is just my penchant for sad books in general, like Sylvia Plath with pictures. Whatever.

The Acme Novelty Library #18 by Chris Ware, is, as usual, incredibly beautiful, intricately drawn, and so sad you want to kill yourself. It's about a depressive girl who wants to kill herself, so, you know. And she has a prosthesis. It's like a tiny slice of Flannery O'Connor, but without the bizarre violent tragedies that push O'Connor stories forward with great urgency towards an astonishing climax. No, this is like real life. Just really sad, and depressing, and yet thought-provoking. No real story, just a jumble of reflections and moments from the life of a girl, and so nothing "happens," except that a life is lived restlessly and with resignation. There is a sad story about one's first (and only) love that ends in heartbreak. Not recommended if you don't like to be bummed out, but recommended if you are a lover of Chris Ware's great work, fine drawing, and inventive layouts.

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
is also beautiful, and just as much of a bummer. This one deals with Asian American issues--excavating the double standards of interracial dating for Asian American women vs. Asian American men, what it means to be a race traitor. In short: two Asians date each other, and then each defects to date a white person behind the other's back. What it means to consider your Asian American identity as particularly salient, and do all those pride things. Whether Asians fetishize whites as much as white men with "yellow fever" do. This was not particularly comfortable to read, but the story was beautifully drawn. None of the characters were very sympathetic, unlike Acme #18, in which I really fell in love with the girl. Here, everyone annoyed me. Not recommended if you don't like being bummed out, don't like the people you're reading about, and think that America should be an assimilationist melting pot where race is no longer an issue or axis of identity. Recommended for fans of Tomine, and anyone who has ever had a bad breakup, and those interested in mundane culture clashes.

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