A Graphic Love Affair

Since loving boys is futile, I might as well redirect my affection to comics. How long has it been since I appreciated the visual arts? I went to art classes where I would return home smelling like turpentine. Or whatever oil paint smells like.

Anyway, the only graphic narrative I knew until this quarter was Satrapi’s Persepolis. And I didn’t even read it. I just watched the film. Sad, I know. But, the main reason I stayed away from graphic novels was because I considered them all “comic books”. Like, you know…Ha, Ha. Or, I figured they were mostly about super heroes; like the heroes who wear masks and tights.

Ay me, what ignorance!

Well, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home revived a graphic love that was lodged deep inside of me…wait, that sounds crude. Let me try again. Bechdel is a freaking genius! I won’t go into a detailed review on Fun Home, but this memoir deals with the trauma of death and the search for sexual identity.

Of course, my obsessive impulses lead me to amazon.com where I purchased a few more graphic novels: Ghost World, Market Day and Art Spiegelman’s Breakdowns: Portrait of an Artist. Visually, Ghost World is my favorite. The black, white and tiffany blue color choice is mesmerizing.

Breakdowns, however, is ridiculous. I mean, it is the perfect example of the kind of effect that traumatic experiences have on one’s memory. At one point, Spiegelman admits that he has repressed his mother’s suicide: “Funny, how the mind works. I’d somehow FORGOTTEN that my mother committed suicide four years before…shielded myself from the memory.”  Breakdowns in an autobiographical work, but there is a cloudy line between what really happened and didn’t, thus, Spiegelman is an unreliable narrator of his own autobiography. In fact, it reminds us that all biographical works are somewhat fictionalized in order to fill-in gaps that have either been forgotten or that the narrator simply doesn’t know. He cleverly categorizes his recollections as “packing” and “unpacking” in an illustrated suitcase that is figuratively his own mind. He unpacks the story of his life in 20 pages, which “illustrates” the limited nature of our own memory and the absurdity of trying to tell one’s experiences through autobiographies. But I can read and reread these twenty pages, because they are so rich in detail that it’s virtually impossible to absorb all the nuances of words and art the first time around.

I haven’t read Market Day yet, but am excited as it doesn’t have many blurbs. It heavily depends on the “reader” to interpret the illustrations. I will blog about it when I get to it.

Oh, and today I bought American Splendor. Too much? A bit overboard on the comics? I think not. I look forward to spending all my savings on trashy graphic novels over summer break. Hoorah!

Ok, now seriously question. Why are all great comics Jewish? Art Spiegelman, James Sturn, Harvey Pekar, David Polonsky and I think Joe Sacco may also be Jewish. Jewish conspiracy on the comic book market? Alright, alright. Just being comical.

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