Sunday, October 5, 2008

The literary graphic novel

I am entranced with Posy Simmonds new book, Tamara Drewe. It was originally published serially in the British paper, The Guardian. But it is nothing like the lame stale joke comic strip such as Garfield or the macabre fantasy operas of Gaiman and company (Sandman). Her social satire is deliciously contemporary, pungent, funny, spot on, and she builds it using the frame of a classic novel. This one adapts the plot of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. Her previous graphic novel was based on...well the title tells all: Gemma Bovary. And her drawing is as good as her dialogue. Advice to teens and wannabe novelists, don't let Ms. Simmonds overhear you ranting in public, she'll capture every nuance with ease and transform it into art.

Her bumbling middle aged characters are drawn with both affection and remorseless accuracy. The pencil and watercolor are so convincing I start to see my world with her strokes.

I lent a copy to my friend Hilary and she couldn't put it down once she started it. It becomes a novel with sketches. But more than that since Simmonds makes use of all the tropes available in the form, the speech bubbles, the pacing, juxtaposing image and word. I'm deeply inspired. Last time I got this gaga over a graphic novel was with Shaun Tan's The Arrival.

Many years ago a friend gave me a copy of Simmond's picture book, Lulu and the Flying Babies for me to share with my daughters. I thought it a lovely way to introduce the pleasures of art museums and the girls loved it. This is like getting the same thrill for adults.

The anthology I edited with Jeanne Marie Beaumont, The Poets' Grimm, featured poems that used Grimm fairy tales as a starting point and poets had remade them into something strange and new and utterly their own. So much can be done by creative adapting. An armature, a recipe, a sandy footprint in which you press your own bare toes.


Kris Truelsen said...

Thanks for your kind comment on my blog! As a matter of fact, I’ve been a dedicated reader of yours for quite some time now. As for your cruel put-down of Garfield, I wouldn't be surprised if you, like me, found greater pleasure in the existential surrealism of this:

Claudia Carlson said...

How perfect a revenge that minus garfield is. I laughed out loud as I sat eating oatmeal in my sock monkey flannel jammies. Here's to our blogs! Cheers.