Archive for October, 2008


what happens when barbarella goes to the holocaust, both the nuclear one and the jewish one, and meets hellboy, who is there tracking a band of allegedly murderous goolywogs?

well first they go to an art gallery to look at a collection of zinc plates that resemble the karma sutra and there they meet a very feisty iranian woman who tells them the history of her country and berates them – saying be true to yourself, make something of your life, make all this tragedy worthwhile.

so they realise they need to get out of there before the end comes, and luckily the league of extraordinary gentlemen are on hand to get them all out.

in short its a fiery encounter – and so was this bookgroup. luckily the shaun tan was there to pour calming oil on the stormy seas, with his whimsical, moving and beautiful but surreal stories from his suburban childhood. they were so gorgeous they evoked my own childhood in the suburbs, almost rehabilitating it really, by allowing me to populate my memories of my suburb with his magical creatures and characters.

i imagined his water buffalo of knowledge grazing on the vacant block in the street of my childhood, i imagined the barnacled diver with his dripping hose knocking on the door of our mrs bad news – they were the bird family in my street. and i imagined every house with its own ballistic missile or its own secret country in the roof space.

everyone agreed these were very touching and lovely images, but there were questions about gravitas. i guess i agree – it is a surreal and beautiful, but gentle, version of the suburbs. it doesnt take on the issues of racial tension, crime and unemployment etc. its a personal vision not a political one. there is a list of shaun tans other work here

and that gentle vision was very welcome because many of the other graphic novels that bookgroupers read were overtly political – maus about the ww2 holocaust, persepolis about iran and when the wind blows about nuclear holocaust.

however being graphic novels they all seemed to have in common that they told these big political stories from a humble one person/one family viewpoint, rather than an abstract helicopter view that a grand novel or a non-fiction piece might

the other things that seem to be common in the graphic novel genre are the use of lots of characters from ancient myths, making the books beautiful objects in themselves, and they seem to stimulate a lot of talk.

it was a very fiery and engaging bookgroup that roamed across all the terrain sketched out by the books. partly i think it might have been so lively because you can get a feel for a graphic novel quite quickly by flicking through the pictures. normally in a theme bookgroup its hard to talk because there is only so much you can say about a book you havnt read, but in this case it was easy, just flick through and say ooh look at that what’s going on there?


October 25, 2008 at 11:53 am Leave a comment


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