Monday, March 28, 2005

Bits and Pieces

I've flirted on and off with reading Persepolis but can't make the final decision. The article about it at the NY Times Review of Books continues to make it tempting:

She is a rare kind of artist, one who makes use not only of her talents, but a disciplined, deliberate use of her imperfections as a verbal and visual stylist, not attempting to conceal them, but to incorporate them as part of her subject. In Volume 2, in a chapter called "The Socks," there is a poignant, absurd, and enraging sequence that explains the source of the odd truncation and awkward gestures of Satrapi's images, particularly of bodies. The art department of her university in Tehran, under the supervision of mullahs, was forbidden to offer traditional anatomy classes. Female models posed covered head to toe in sheets like black chadors, while male models were allowed to pose in marginally more revealing street clothes. When Satrapi, an indefatigable student, stays late to draw a seated male model, she is challenged by a supervisor, who tells her it is against the moral code for her to look at the man she is drawing. When she asks with incredulous flippancy if she should look instead at the door while drawing the man, the supervisor replies, "Yes." Satrapi herself has said in an interview, "There were many things I didn't do because I couldn't do them. But I was clever enough to take my lack and make a style of it." It is precisely this quality of inventive limitation, the visible struggle with the accidents of restriction, of fruitful disillusionment, that makes Persepolis such a winning, rueful, and effective autobiography, the story of the creation of a person, of a way of being in the world, partly shaped by heritage, partly at odds with it.
Still, I can't decide, probably because it is a graphic novel. I have never read a graphic novel before. This is not because I think graphic novels are glorified comic books, on the contrary, I think the failing is in myself--I just don't understand the medium. But perhaps I should see if my public library has Persepolis and give it a try. There is nothing to lose by the effort. Also at the Times, Margaret Atwood writes a review of a republication of Visa for Avalon by Bryher. Atwood's summation:
There's some suggestion that Avalon is whatever you think it is, and the same can be said of Visa for Avalon. In part it's a trip through the nightmare of political repression and mob takeover, in part a veiled encounter with approaching death: Everyman meets The Pilgrim's Progress crossed with "The Passing of Arthur" with undertones of The Seventh Seal, as domesticated in Trelawney-by-the-sea. It would be stretching matters to call it an entirely successful work of art—its threads are too loose—but despite this, it remains a suggestive and beguiling fiction by one of the twentieth century's most interesting artistic figures. The Paris Press should be thanked for republishing it.
Perhaps not the most glowing review, but enough to get my curiosity going. I won't be running out to get the book, but will likely pick it up sometime. And finally, who wouldn't want their very own haunted bookshelf? (via Bookninja)