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Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary Graphic Novels’

A few weeks back I went to the bookshop after a very long time – a real bookshop. I spent the whole evening there and couldn’t leave at the end of it. All the old memories of shopping in bookshops came back – the beautiful ambience, the fragrance of books, the wonderful new discoveries, the gentle music, the book-ish conversation with the bookshop assistants. I wondered why I don’t go to bookshops more often, because I love it every time I do. Though these days I discover most new books through blogs and the internet, the bookshop still holds surprises and beautiful gems. I discovered new books that day which I hadn’t seen anywhere or heard anyone recommend – they were beautiful surprises which made me very happy.

One of the books that I discovered was the two volume edition of the graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Graveyard Book’. I have wanted to read this book for a while and I was hoping to read Gaiman’s original, but when I saw the graphic novel adaptation, I couldn’t’ resist getting it. It was adapted into graphic novel form by Craig Russell, who had done similar work on Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’. My first introduction to Gaiman’s work was Russell’s graphic adaptation of ‘Coraline’ and so I was excited. But this time things were different. The thing was this. Russell had assembled a galaxy of eight artists (including himself) and asked each artist to work on a chapter. (there is one chapter on which two artists have worked and there is another chapter on which three artists have worked). So it was nine chapters and eight artists – and the result was a stunning work of art. Words like ‘stunning’, ‘amazing’, ‘wonderful’ (my favourite) have become clichéd these days because we meet them in every page and sometimes every passage we read. But here, I am not using it just for effect. I really mean it in its best, most brilliant sense. The artwork is stunning. I didn’t realize the full effect of it till I picked the graphic novel version of ‘Coraline’ and ‘The Sandman’ – both Gaiman books known for their artwork – and checked them in comparison. The difference was stark. The galaxy of artists has done its work brilliantly in ‘The Graveyard Book’ and I think this edition on its own is a brilliant literary graphic work of art. A must read for lovers of the original book and for all Gaiman fans. Though I loved all the artists’ work, I liked some of them more. What is life, after all, if we don’t play favourites and love some people more than others? 🙂 My favourites were Kevin Nowlan (who illustrated the first chapter and part of the eighth chapter) and Scott Hampton who illustrated the hundred-page mammoth seventh chapter and part of the third chapter. My favourite chapter in the book though was the fourth one called ‘The Witch’s Headstone’ in which my favourite character in the book Liza Hempstock first makes her appearance and plays an important role. I wish I had known her and I could meet her everyday – she is such a beautiful, warm, friendly, adorable ghost. (Hempstock seems to be Gaiman’s favourite name – the Hempstocks make an appearance in ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ too, though they are a different family.)

TheGraveyardBookByNeilGaimanPart1TheGraveyardBookByNeilGaimanPart2

So, yeah, I have sung enough praises about the book 🙂 Now about the story. I must be the last person to read the book and so you must already know the story. If you haven’t read it yet, here is a brief summary. A bad man called Jack murders a family – the parents and their daughter. The toddler baby son somehow escapes and enters the local graveyard. The ghosts see him and he is able to see them. The bad man Jack enters the graveyard to kill the baby. The ghosts have to make a decision on whether to save the baby boy or not. They decide to save him. Then the problem arises on what to do with the baby. Because the graveyard is no place for a living baby. The ghosts have a meeting and after a lot of heated discussion and after being mediated by someone more powerful than them, they decide to keep the baby and raise him and keep him away from trouble. The graveyard is populated by fascinating characters – ghosts most of the time, but at times we meet ghouls, a vampire, a werewolf and other strange creatures. But most of them are not what they appear to be – there is more to them than meets the eye. Sometimes humans stray into the graveyard. The boy who is now called Nobody Owens (‘Nobody’ because he doesn’t have any other name, and ‘Owens’ because his adopted parents (who are ghosts) are called the Owens), makes friends with a human girl and they play for a while. But living in the graveyard is not conducive to friendships with real people and things don’t go well with her as expected. Bod (Nobody Owens) tries going to school after a while, but that is hard too. Bod’s parents the Owenses love him but they also bring old-fashioned parental practices while bringing him up. Bod’s guardian is Silas. He is not living and he is not dead and it is never clearly stated what he actually is, but he is tall, wears a dark cloak and looks like the Count – the rest is left to our imagination. There is Miss Lupescu who comes one summer to teach Bod – she is hard and tough on him, she teaches him things which he feels will never be useful, but later he discovers otherwise, and he and we readers, see that there is more to Miss Lupescu than meets the eye.

I can tell the whole story here, but I am not going to. Go, get this gorgeous graphic novel adaptation and read it yourself.

This version of Gaiman’s book is one of my favourite graphic novels from recent times. It is vintage Gaiman in terms of the story, the characters, the dialogue, the humour and it is also a stunning work of graphic art. I would highly recommend it. Now, I want to read Gaiman’s original and see whether I missed out on something.

Other Reviews

Caroline (from Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

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I discovered Lucy Knisley’s ‘Relish’ through Shweta’s (from Literary Grand Grounds) year end favourite graphic novels post. (You can also find Shweta’s review here.) I love reading a book on food occasionally, and a graphic novel memoir was too tempting to resist. I finished reading it yesterday. Here is what I think.

Relish By Lucy Knisley

‘Relish’ is Lucy Knisley’s memoir with a focus on the important food moments of her life. She tells us the story of her life – how things were when she was a child, about her artistic mother and her father who liked fine cuisine, about the dinners that her parents used to host, about her parents’ artistic friends who used to visit, how she grew up with rich experiences related to food – growing vegetables and fruits, visiting the farmer’s market to buy and sell, rearing chicken, trying all sorts of cooking at home with her mother starting from the simplest delicious things to the most complex, how food played an important part in important events in her life, how moving from the city to the country side led to a big change in the way she perceived food, how going to a country with a totally different cuisine opened her life to the rich cultural complexity of the world, how her mother inspired her to cook and appreciate beautiful food – these and other beautiful foodie stories and themes are covered throughout the book. Every chapter has a recipe on a particular food item and I enjoyed reading all of them.

 

Some of my favourite reading moments in the book were these – when Knisley describes the best tamales she ever had in a very cheap Mexican eatery, her description of the best croissant she ever had in a small bakery in Venice, her description of Osage oranges (a new discovery for me), her description of a flock of geese which attack her proving that geese are not at all benign as we might think, her description of how her mom’s cookies were always better than hers (exact quote coming later), her take on junk food, how she and her mom sometimes satisfied their crave for food by just eating sautéed mushroom or spinach for dinner, her Japanese culinary and cultural experience, how her dad liked sniffing her mom’s earthy cheese smell clinging to her hair and skin and how in later years her boyfriend did the same to her – these and many other moments were my favourites, that is most of the book:)

 

The book started with a recipe for spice tea (chai) – how can one resist that (though I make chai in a slightly different way) – and I fell in love with the recipe section of the book after that. My favourite recipes were this one and the ones on how her mom made sautéed mushrooms and the one on Huevos Rancheros. The recipe on making sushi was an eyeopener. I felt sad that the surprise has been revealed behind this magical dish, but I was also happy to read it.

 

I loved many scenes and conversations in the book but my favourite was the one where Lucy Knisley compares the cookies she made with the ones her mother made. It went like this :

 

I’ve since turned to the mixing bowl so often in times of turmoil, I can practically bake blindfolded. The act is so soothing – reminding me that I might be a mess, but I can at least do ONE thing right. For me, the act of assembling and combining chocolate chip-cookie ingredients is like watching ‘The Sound of Music’. Mom might make fun of me for being generic or clichéd in my cookie / movie choices, but when I’m upset, it’s all I want. Cookies are all about comfort. Sometimes something simple can comfort the most.

My mother might scoff at the unimaginative chocolate chip cookie, but when she can be persuaded, she makes a mean batch. After all these years of me ritualistically dropping spoonfuls of chip-peppered dough on baking sheets, she still trumps me in cookie skills. Maybe because baking, unlike cooking, is more of an exact science. My mother’s steady hand and cool head make her an excellent baker, though she prefers the creative freedom of cooking. My baking is too emotional, too volatile with distress, to ever match Mom’s cookie perfection. But my cookies contain the anxious deliciousness earned through an afternoon spent in turmoil, soothed by separating my troubles into warm crispy pieces. 

 

If Hazel (the heroine of John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ ) doesn’t mind, I would like to use her line here. I fell in love with ‘Relish’, the way you fall asleep : slowly, and then all at once. I still remember the ‘all at once’ moment – it was when Knisley described how she and her mom satisfied their food cravings by eating sautéed mushrooms and then went on to describe how to make sautéed mushrooms. That was the moment I totally fell in love with the book. 

‘Relish’ is a beautiful book. It is a treat for foodies and graphic novel lovers. If you are either or both of these, you will love it.

Have you read ‘Relish’ by Lucy Knisley? What do you think about it? Which were your favourite reading moments?

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