DISASTER DRAWN

VISUAL WITNESS, COMICS, AND DOCUMENTARY FORM

Though this academic study has a stylistic density that a general readership might occasionally find difficult, the...

An illuminating analysis of graphic narrative’s documentary power.

Though many of the artists whose work receives close academic scrutiny here served their apprenticeships in what was once called “comic books,” Chute (English/Univ. of Chicago; Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists, 2014, etc.) situates them within the framework of a much longer legacy, of art annotated by words conveying the witness’s horror of war. She quotes art critic Robert Hughes on Goya as “the first modern visual reporter on warfare” and documents the famed artist’s influence on Robert Crumb. Chute then extends that legacy to encompass Joe Sacco, an American Book Award winner and “the contemporary force behind comics journalism, a term he devised,” and Art Spiegelman, with whom she collaborated on MetaMaus (2011). Even those who admire the accomplishments of those artists will likely see them in a new light here, as Chute’s analysis shows how the medium renders time as space, allowing readers to dictate the pace (as documentary film does not). It turns the reader as well as the artist into a witness of the unspeakable in a manner that often transcends polemics and partisanship. The author also introduces readers to the global expansion of the form, drawing connections between American artists and those in Japan and the Middle East. Given the breadth and depth of most of the book, the 10-page coda feels tacked-on, and could be a book in itself, as the Charlie Hebdo murders and other Muslim responses to images they find offensive reinforce the contemporary power and influences of the work—and find Spiegelman and Sacco on opposite sides concerning the freedom to draw such images and the responsibility to publish them.

Though this academic study has a stylistic density that a general readership might occasionally find difficult, the epiphanies are worth the effort.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-674-50451-6

Page Count: 362

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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