Monday, November 17


I've been bingeing on comics recently, and for some reason, almost all the book covers are blue (or some shade of blue). This is really bad news for my bank account--what Christmas Bonus are you talking about?--and I don't even think the university will fund such purchases even if they're for my classes.

Anyway, first off is Ariel Shrag's Potential. Let's say if I got this on Thursday night, I'm done by Friday night. It's a chronicle of her junior year in high school, written the summer after that. The art is rather simple and the narrative isn't something out of this world: the protagonist finally decides that she only likes girls, she gets a girlfriend, dumps the girl, decides to lose her virginity to a guy friend, finds herself in a long, protracted relationship with a girl who "drains" her all the time.

It can be a bit episodic, but the real narrative anchor here is Ariel's relationship with the Sally character. I especially like the parts where Ariel's character is drunk, or dreaming, or high on drugs. The altered consciousness allows for more experimentation with visual style and narrative.

What I like about this best of all, even if let's say some will argue that Fun Home does it with more grace, is that it's a story of a teenage girl written by a teenage girl. There's a rawness and roughness to it, but you can't beat it in terms of emotional realism and (yuck!) sincerity.

Also, Shrag prefers that you her work "comics" instead of "graphic novel":

The word graphic novel is stupid. It sounds like a kid trying to use a big word and having no idea what he's talking about. It sounds like someone being obnoxious and pronouncing Nabokov's name correctly just to show off.

I got into this argument with someone when I was in high school about whether or not comics could be "real literature." He was adamant that they couldn't. They're "comics," he said, they're just "comics."

About six years later, I got an email from him apologizing for the argument. "You were right," he said, "I read graphic novels now." Oh, so now that they're "graphic novels" they can be literature. Also, Maus, Persepolis and my books are not novels of any sort. The Holocaust, the Islamic Revolution and my … "teenage sexual identity journey" … are events that actually happened.

I'm curious to read Awkward and Defintion, the earlier installments of her high school memoirs chronicling freshman and sophomore years. And I'm almost sure that the final volume Likewise, which looks at senior year, will be more mature in terms of art and narrative.

You can also watch Episodes 1-4 of Potential (The Video Comic) here.

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