Posts Tagged ‘non-fiction’

I was very interested to read this graphic novel; it seemed like a great idea because it could bring visual drama/excitement to the US Constitution. Sadly, I was disappointed with the end result.

Every page was busy. It seemed that something was out of balance on every page. There was either too much text, too many colors, the drawings were too busy, or D) a combination of all of the above. Pages 84 & 85 are a good example of too much text. I turned the page and immediately felt overwhelmed. Instead of following each caption and image I focused on the two pages from a distance. My first reaction was to simply close the book or skip these pages, but I soldiered through the text. It wasn’t until page 138 that I felt at ease with the layout. This page (and half of page 139) used a fair amount of white space as a backdrop rather than small gutters or white space within frames.

On many pages there were no borders, the frames extended all the way to the edge and into the center binding. This effect added to the overwhelming effect of the visual and textual imagery. On page 90 the text box is not only cut off at the page edge, but so is the text. This may have been a printer error, or it may have been designed purposefully, but it was distracting. Maybe the purpose of creating such busy pages, so full of text, color and imagery was simply to show the immensity of the US constitution and amendments?

Text was often difficult to read. On some pages the text was very small, it would be a pastel on a dark background, the text would even be directly laid over imagery, or the text would be in cursive. At first I squinted to read some text, but after a while I simply skipped over text that was difficult to read–it was too much work and it irritated me. After a while I began to just wish the book was finished, not because I didn’t like the material, but because I didn’t like the way the book was put together.

That being said, there were a few things I also liked about the graphic novel. I enjoyed the historical introduction to the inception of the constitution. I especially enjoyed pages 4-5 (We People) and the fact that the author took the time to create a diverse body of ethnicities (which I didn’t see much of during the rest of the book). There were a few images that I thought were nice adaptions of modern society into the ideas of the constitution: one was on page 22 with the “do it yourself kit” to build America. Additionally I thought that the depiction of the evolution of law using the fish–>ape–>human comical. Later, on page 55 I enjoyed the design of the election process pictured as the cogs of a wheel. Each of these exemplify a good command of symbols to portray ideas.

My takeaway thought: be gently on the eye. Too much complexity, IMO, takes away from the power of the image and textual juxtaposition.

Before opening this graphic novel I had only read Kafka’s short story, The Hunger Artist, and learned a bit about Kafka’s life. This novel, by Robert Crumb and David Zane Mairowitz delves into Kafka’s major life experiences (or issues if you will) and some of his major works. The graphic novel covers the arch of his life, from childhood to his death, primarily using quotes from Kafka as captions for the imagery. Unlike many graphic novels I’ve read previously, Crumb and Mairowitz also include textual comments throughout the novel interspersed with the images and their captions. The drawings are in black and white, which I think is excellent and powerful. Had the imagery been colorful, or even three toned colors it would have detracted from the spooky form of the novel. Even with a smattering of experience with Kafka’s work and background, I felt a more complete understanding of the fear and inability to engage emotionally through the visual interpretations of his written work. If visual art can be Kafkaesque, Crumb and Mairowitz have accomplished it.

I found the depictions of eyes, throughout the graphic novel, to be particularly spooky. On page 30 Kafka’s father is portrayed with blank eyes and the caption reads “He’s still a giant, my father”. The next panel then shows Kafka himself with the same blank eyes. It’s a powerful way of showing that he and his father don’t see eye to eye. A friend of mine once said that the eyes are the window to the soul. I feel, in this case, Kafka and his father have both closed their souls off from each other. It’s a striking image that visually explores the depth (or lack of) of their father son relationship issues. Giving both characters also shows that they’ve cut themselves off emotionally from the rest of the world; they are devoid of normal human emotional interaction. This certainly seems to be Kafka’s feelings towards his father, and is exhibited by his lifelong inability to commit to a serious interpersonal relationship with anyone other than his pen, ink, and paper. Later, on page 72, Kafka’s eyes are drawn with circular lines and no pupil. Crumb uses text to explain that writing was a form of self-hypnosis for Kafka–hence the concentric circles representing his eyes. This symbol of hypnosis is exceptionally haunting. Kafka almost appears as though he were inhuman, just as he often imagines himself to be in his written work.

Crumb has used the eye as a symbol to convey many personal emotions of the characters, but also of the relationships that exist between them and the world that surrounds them. I’ve read some of Kafka’s work, and some criticism of his work, but these images have conveyed more deeply the fear and absurd ideas that Kafka exhibited in his personal life and writings. The combination of textual narrative, direct quotes, literary work, and graphic images come together to portray a complete and eerie depiction of Kafka’s life. In one word–intense.

I purchased this non-fiction graphic novel the day after it’s release at a charming NOLA bookstore, Maple Street Bookstore. Although I had marked the release of A.D. New Orleans on my calendar, it sat on my desk for two days before I cracked the cover. But the minute I started reading I was transported into the eye of the storm and turned the final page just an hour later having been oblivious and unaware of the exterior world.

A.D. New Orleans explores the true experiences of seven different people before, during, and after hurricane Katrina changed their lives forever. Each person’s story is factual, and scrupulously researched for accuracy of depiction. Neufeld, constrained by the word limit of a graphic novel, captures the minute details in emotional reactions, dialect and setting of each story.

The structure of A.D. New Orleans differs in form from other graphic novels in that the stories are told from different character’s viewpoints and these characters never meet. The novel moves through time and stacks the varied choices of each character on top of each other, which gives a deep impression of seven people’s cathartic experiences that represent the experiences of thousands other individuals. The graphic novel is not colored in detail, but instead in shades for each character. This effect does not detract from the novel, but instead puts more weight on the words and drawings rather than distracting the reader. A.D. New Orleans gives an honest, straight forward account of the largest natural disaster ever in the United States.

I thoroughly enjoyed A.D. New Orleans: After the Deluge, and look forward to reading it again to see what details I missed, or discover drawings that appear with more clarity.

Josh Neufeld’s website: http://joshn.home.mindspring.com/

The name of this book says it all. Not only does Angel offer sound advice for all types of piercings, but she gives cultural history, pre and post care instructions, information about body type and compatible piercings, health risks and management, sex and piercings, and information about traveling through airports or visiting the doctor with piercings that cannot easily be removed. She even offers advice to the frustrated parent. These are only a few of the many topics Angel covers in this 300 page Piercing Bible–there’s even an index for keyword searches.

I purchased this book on a whim, even though I rarely ever do more than flip through a non fiction book, but I sat down to read a couple of chapters and discovered that four hours had passed and I had read most of the book cover to cover. Angel’s writing is thorough and informative, and it has broadened my opinions and clarified the misconceptions that I had of many body piercings. If you have been toying with the idea of getting a piercing, or have had many, or if you are a piercer yourself–this book will provide you with two decades of expertise.

Having had an interest in vampires for much of my waking life, night or naught, this book caught my eye and I thought it would be fun to have a look at vampirism historically as well as pop culture. I thought maybe this book would shed some light into my interest, which, when I mention it, often gains me sideways glances. So, if you’re read this, my personal “vampirism” hasn’t gone beyond the occasional halloween costume, and yes, there have been more than one.

Ok, so let me get to the point. I loved the recounted journeys that Nuzum took from dark park benches to Transylvania, from drinking his own blood to making fun of others for claiming to lick it off of unmentionables. The book also held many fun facts like the meaning of the colors of a barber’s pole. You’ll have to read (or Google) to find that answer. 🙂

True to the synopsis on the back of the book, Nuzum specifically focuses on Popular culture, glazing over most of the six hundred and some odd unpopular vampire movies, and offering a depth of insight on Stoker, and sadly on Buffy too. He glazed over Rice as though her vampire novels weren’t worth his time. It’s a shame, I think, to have wasted hundreds of hours watching virtually unknown films and largely neglecting popular and influential fiction, but hey, it’s Nuzum’s book not mine.

Other than fun facts and one person’s funny experiences in trying to become, or meet, a vampire, I finally gained a bit of insight into my own fascination with the mythical creatures. Now I think maybe I can go to sleep and not worry about my toes sticking out from under my sheets. Or maybe not.

The companion site for “The Dead Travel Fast”

The Author’s Website

The Author’s Bio on NPR