No sooner does The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon return from hiatus (welcome back, Tom!) than he breaks news of an exciting, and potentially controversial, new comic from Drawn & Quarterly: Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, the latest in cartoonist Guy Delisle’s series of graphic memoirs-slash-travelogues. Why controversial, you ask? Because Delisle’s travelogues have all chronicled everyday life under infamously repressive regimes — North Korea in Pyongyang, China in Shenzhen, and “Myanmar” in Burma Chronicles. I have a feeling that many people won’t feel super comfortable with Israel keeping that sort of company. On the other hand, the book takes place in part during the three-week Gaza War that resulted in a 1100-plus-to-13 Palestinian-to-Israeli death ratio, so perhaps even Israel supporters could concede that the war-is-hell harshness of this conflict is in keeping with Delisle’s past efforts.
The book is due in Spring 2012, with an initial first printing of 30,000 copies. Click the link for more details, including what publisher and editor-in-chief Chris Oliveros has to say about the project.
Stitches: A Memoir
by David Small
WW Norton, 336 pages, $24.95.
I sometimes suspect that part of the reason some critics (if I can use that term) are hostile towards the recent spate of comic book (sorry, graphic novel) memoirs is due to a mistrust of the genre itself. There’s a tendency when someone is chronicling a dramatic, personal event, to exult praise merely for inherent drama of the story, particularly if it’s a traumatic one, than the skill in the telling. Some folks, in other words, get swept up in the idea of the story itself and the bravery of the person in coming forward to tell it, and ignore whether or not the work succeeds as art.
Certainly the success of books like Fun Home and Persepolis has resulted in publishers unleashing a number of bad or mediocre memoirs on the public. So perhaps it’s not surprising some folks are wary when a buzz-heavy memoir gets released.
Two such books hit the stands recently, David Small’s National Book Award-nominated (but kids only!) Stitches and the Ken Dahl’s Monsters. The good news is that both books deserve at least some, if not all, of the positive attention they’ve been getting.
Name another graphic memoir that has readers raving about how it motivated them to lose weight or change their diet. A quick scan of the Amazon reviews for Carol Lay’s The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude reveals a sampling of folks who praise the book for helping them diet. As noted at the book’s website: “Cartoonist Carol Lay has had her work published everywhere from The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal to More, Salon, and MAD Magazine. Her weekly comic strip, WayLay, has appeared in many papers here and abroad including The Hartford Courant, The San Francisco Examiner, L.A. Weekly, Salon.com, The National Post, and Hong Kong Weekly, to name a few.” In a recent email interview, I was able to get Lay to discuss the book, the challenges of being a cartoonist in a struggling economy and other matters.
Tim O’Shea: The Big Skinny initially got started as a pitch to a weight-loss clinic that evolved into your book–have any weight loss clinics contacted you since the book has been published?
Carol Lay: My idea was actually started as a pitch to do a continuing comic strip for Weight Watchers. They didn’t bite, but I just kept coming back to the idea. So a couple of years later I took time off to write and draw a proposal for a book. THAT worked out. But, no, I have not yet been contacted by weight loss clinics, perhaps because I lost weight and maintained that loss on my own. (You don’t have to spend money on packaged food or weekly meetings to lose weight! In fact, I’ve found that eating healthy, nutritious foods is cheaper than maintaining a “chunky” diet in the long run.)