Daily Archives: July 22, 2012

Top 5 Graphic Memoirs

Comic books have become the brand new vehicle for autobiographies to be written. Readers also find it very easy to connect with them in the form of pictures and words, than just words. I have read them over the past couple of years and enjoyed this method of communication. Autobiographies can be quite heavy to read, so I guess this format works best, when you also want to lighten things and the writing.

So here are my top 5 comic autobiographies, so to say:

Maus by Art Spiegelman: Maus is the biography of Art’s father, Vladek and an autobiography of Art’s relationship with him. It is a book about his father’s account as a prisoner in Auschwitz during WWII. The book is beautifully designed and the graphics are brilliantly portrayed with the Nazis depicted as Cats and the Jews as Mice. Hence the title, Maus. Maus is a chilling and thought-provoking read. Something that will not leave you days after you have finished the book.

Maus is a two-part book. The complete edition can be purchased from HomeShop18 here

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: We have all watched the movie (most of us) and the so-called graphic novel is to die for. You should not go through life without reading this graphic memoir of identity, race, and one’s roots. The first volume of her autobiography is about when the Shah of Iran was deposed and the revolution was delivered, liberation at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, with severe implications for the normal folk. The second volume is of her return and the country from her point of view. Brilliantly told in sparse and simple black and white drawings, this one will sure get a lump in your throat.

You can purchase The Complete Persepolis on HomeShop18 here

Palestine by Joe Sacco: I remember reading Palestine for the first time and being blown by it in so many ways – this was probably the first one of its kind book. Journalism and reporting had found a new voice – Graphic Representation. Joe Sacco has managed to portray the lives of the Palestinians in the most amazing way with graphics, through interviews and laced with facts. The sense of place and feeling is surreally portrayed throughout the book. A book that you must not miss out on.

You can buy Palestine on HomeShop18 here

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel: This is everything a biography could be in the form of a Graphic Novel. A daughter getting to know her gay father better after his death. At the same time, she is trying to deal with her sexuality issues and all of this is taking place in rural Pennsylvania. The book is about her fraught relationship with her father, as she discovers herself in the process. A read that maybe is not for all, but a great one nonetheless.

You can buy the book from HomeShop18 here

Stitches by David Small: Stitches is bold, brazen, and heartbreaking. It is about Small’s growing up years where his household was ever tense and people spoke in another language: that of breaking stuff and banging doors. It also tells the story of David, who wakes up one morning from a supposedly harmless operation to find out that he, is virtually mute. His parents did not inform him about his vocal cord being removed and the implications – emotional and artistic on his growing-up years. This book stayed with me for a very long time. I could not forget the stark and raw visuals. Read it if you can stomach the truth.

Stitches by David Small can be bought from HomeShop18 here

So these are my top 5 graphic memoirs. A brilliant place sometimes to start reading graphic novels.

Book Review: The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa

Title: The Dream of the Celt
Author: Mario Vargas Llosa
Publisher: Faber and Faber UK
ISBN: 978-0571275717
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Mario Vargas Llosa is pure genius when it comes to the writing business. His sentences, his words, the plot of his books are beyond stupendous. The reason I praise him the way I do is apparent in his writing and he proves it yet again with his new book, “The Dream of the Celt”.

The Dream of the Celt is the fictionalized biography of Roger Casement (a failed revolutionary) – who was instrumental in Ireland’s struggle for Independence (after he served the British Government and was rewarded by them in more than one way), which culminated in the Easter uprising in 1916. That is just the basic plot of the book, which appears only in the third part. The first two parts of the book are about Casement’s struggle to expose the exploitation of natives in the Congo and the Amazon by rubber barons.

“The Dream of the Celt” is spot on with reference to not only the Peruvian scenery (but obviously he would) but also Irish culture and history, which is evident not only from the story, but also in the manner in which it is narrated. The other angle that Llosa explores is that of Casement being homosexual (and involved with powerful people in the system) as seen through his letters and journals. This propels the story beside the revolution.

I have read Vargas in the past and immensely enjoyed what he has written. Most of his novels center on a political theme or so. The historical novels explore the human toll taken by political idealism. This novel however explores somewhat the lighter side of Casement, which is quite a relief. At the same time, there are a lot of political issues seething at the core of this novel, due to which I had to read up a lot on the side, not only about Casement, but also about his revolution, its cause and thereby the effects.

Edith Grossman has done a wonderful job of the translation, considering that all elements of the book (I am assuming from the authors’ point of view) have been tied eloquently. The story moves back and forth from prisons to Roger’s outside-of-prison experiences, his ideologies and values, giving us a glimpse of the man he was.

The only problem that I had while reading this novel, like I mentioned earlier, was the political scope. It left me confused in places (especially when it came to the dates and which ship did Casement ride) but then it was alright after a while. Vargas can write anything and some of us will love all that he writes. That’s the power of his words.

This book is not for everyone though. It is a challenging read and you might not want to make this your first Llosa read. Try starting with, “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter” or “In Praise of the Stepmother”, which is ideal to an introduction to this fabulous writer.

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