[Monday Reading] Of Enchantments and Beautiful Darknesses in Graphic Novels

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Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Award Winning Books Reading Challenge for 2015 (#AWBRead2015)! You still have a few months left before the year ends to win book prizes.

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Here is the sign up page and the September-October linky if you already have reviews up. One randomly-selected participant would receive a copy of Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick courtesy of Pansing Books.

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Click here to view my announcement post to learn more details.

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These are two graphic novels that found me from the library shelves as I was book hunting for our current reading theme a few weeks back.

IMG_5117An Enchantment: A Graphic Poem

Written and Illustrated by: Christian Durieux
Published byComics Lit, Louvre Editions, 2013
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This graphic poem, as Christian Durieux refers to it, is part of the Louvre collection which has the museum as the central setting to its stories. In his author’s note he stated “To love museums, you must love ghosts” which is essentially the enchanting thread that runs throughout this particular story that includes a retirement dinner party for the museum director, a highly important man (worked as Minister of Finance during his younger years, figure that!);

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a bottle of expensive wine, and an ethereally beautiful woman who appears from out of nowhere.

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See the woman where there was none previously?

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of paintings and the artist’s illustrations which I have no doubt are deliberately selected with specific references/allusions to a particular time period of the art which, I am afraid, are lost on me, yet does not diminish from my enjoyment, appreciation, and overall admiration to how everything comes together so intelligently:

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More than anything, I found this graphic novel to be a philosophical poetry on mortality, a quiet reevaluation of one’s life choices, ancient grudges, accomplishments articulated in seeming point-form with a beautiful young woman as a sounding board and the most revered museum in the world as the setting – not bad for an old man’s life:

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One that deserves a bottle of Graves, “the wine of dear old Montesquieu,” and dancing on one’s socks, shoes casually thrown over the railings as breadcrumbs providing clues to this important man’s whereabouts:

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… because great men are expected to dance and “you’ll obtain anything by dancing.” There is quiet marvel here that provides spaces for self-reflection as one traverses the boundaries of reality and make-believe:

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It made me wonder how I would like my last night in the world to be, who I would choose to spend it with, where I will be, and whether I will spend it dancing and whimsy:

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This is truly an enchanting book that surprisingly tugged at my insides. It is a story of how one chooses to lose one’s self in focused beauty while the rest are rightfully drowned in nothing but white noise or placed against a backdrop of an elaborate voyage that is never-ending.

Beautiful Darkness

Story by: Marie Pommepuy and Fabien Vehlmann Art by: Kerascoët Translated by: Helge DascherIMG_5132
Published byDrawn & Quarterly, DUPUIS, 2009
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Until now, I honestly don’t know what to think of this one. While I gave it a 3 on Goodreads, a part of me still wants to rate it as either a 1 or a 2.5. I suppose I rated it as 3 for its fearlessness, its irreverence, and brazen intention to serve as an “unsettling anti-fairytale” as its blurb suggested.

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Add the fact that the illustrations are clearly gorgeous and exquisitely done. However, they are also meant to invite the innocent reader to come in, flip the page, with the intention of shocking the reader out of its wits; disarming the reader into complacency only to be pushed into a cliff of utter darkness, never mind whether its beautiful – one does not really appreciate the view as one is tilting over the edge.

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For readers of this blog, you would know how much I appreciate the odd, the strange, the weird – I am a Gorey fan after all. I embrace irreverence and subtle shades of darkness. While I really would have wanted to like this book, I had a problem with its pointless violence, gratuitous gore, and disconnected vignettes that bordered on self-indulgence and self-absorption. There is a degree of manic glee with the seemingly-sole purpose to shock an audience, the whole fragmented narrative a performance rather than a desire to convey something real.

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I suppose this is an example of a case when the medium became the message, the latter lost around snippets of severed limbs, mangled mouths, or buried half-formed self-loathing, unfinished Timothies (read the book to know more out about this strange sub-story).

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Despite the heated-oven ending where the narcissistic villainess supposedly got her comeuppance, I found no redemption in this tale, the creators had none to give. The reader is left to find scraps of those from the occasional vacuous kindness for the beautiful darknesses to sneer at in its vapid naivete.

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But yes, beautiful art. No doubt about that.

Currently Reading…

I finished reading these two graphic novels a week ago as I have set out for myself to do:

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What It Is by Lynda Barry and The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean which I hope to review here before our reading theme ends.

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I also managed to read these graphic novels which I will be reviewing soon for our reading theme: Cairo by G. Willow Wilson and M. K. Perker, Local by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly.

This week, I hope to read the following books:

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Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly since I will be doing a Skype interview with her for my higher-degree class by end of October. 🙂 And since it is October, I thought I might as well read the heartbreaking October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman.

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And since I am a fairly ambitious reader, I thought might as well read this: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew. We also have international visiting consultants coming in this week for my research project in my institution and here are the talks that they will be doing this week:

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Wild Children in Wild Classrooms by John McKenzie from New Zealand.

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The Stories We Tell: Linguistic Socialization and Children’s Literature by my very good friend Jesus Federico Hernandez.

  1. I can honestly say I’ve never heard about a “graphic poem” before! That was interesting.
    I sometimes have a hard time rating on Goodreads. I often give books higher ratings than I should but I rationalize it somewhere 🙂
    Looking forward to your thoughts on Blackbird Fly. I’ve heard ok things.

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  2. I think I will skip the second one, Myra. It does sound gruesome, but will look for The Enchantment, an interesting look at that story. You do sound as if you have a busy week ahead. Best wishes for good reading among all the meetings!

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  3. Those were interesting graphic novels. I read them last year I think. October Mourning will definitely tug at your heartstrings.

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  4. I hope you enjoy Blackbird Fly. I did. I would like to get my hands on An Enchantment: A Graphic Poem, but like others, I’ll bypass Beautiful Darkness since gruesome and scary are not genres I’m fond of in the first place.

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  5. Wow. What an incredible selection of titles. I don’t mind tales that are shocking or scary, provided there is still a story worth following, and the entire point of the book isn’t simply to shock or provoke, because to be quite honest that gets pretty boring. But I’m very curious to at least have a look at Beautiful Darkness, you’ve piqued my interest!

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  6. So many new-to-me books! Thank you a always for the thorough reviews!

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

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  7. Such different graphic novels show what can be done with this form. I want to find An Enchantment, but will probably pass on the second one. I’m not a fan of gore for gore’s sake.

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  8. Busy busy reading time! Several of the graphic novels are new to me. I really enjoyed Blackbird Fly. Have a great week. 🙂

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  9. […] was especially taken by An Enchantment: A Graphic Poem which I featured for our Crazy for Comics Reading Theme and upon discovering that there is […]

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