Cartoons as Literature?

Well, yes, even if, like me, you are NOT a fan of Captain Marvel.  Try out Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?   Bechdel manages to do all of the following with pictures and prose:

  • Tell the story of her own tortured relationship with her mother.
  • Weave in the work of Virginia Woolf.
  • Detail the psychological theories of D. W. Winnicott.
  • Work in substantive points re Freud, Jung, Melanie Klein and Joyce Carol Oates.
  • Produce page after page of compelling pictures of the author’s daily life.  These include, without prurience, the mildly-erotic loving quality of her intimacy  with her (lesbian) lovers.
  • Get in the peculiar quality of East Coast intellectual life through vehicles such as a childhood conversation between her parents, her brothers and herself about penis envy.
  • Make you laugh.
  • Make you think.
  • Emerge from this elaborately neurotic world to a moving conclusion about love between mother and daughter.

Quite the set of achievements, no?   Check it out.  And while you are at it, take a look at Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza for a brilliant cartoon depiction of Palestinian life and culture on the Gaza strip, along with how the present predicament came about.

Ah, you serious readers, I know what you are thinking–this cannot be true!  But I dare you to take on either of these books and not emerge impressed with the subtlety this art form can convey.

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  1. Stephanie

    Interesting to read your review. I’ve read many reviews wildly praising her first book/autobiograph, the name of which eludes me, natch… but the only reviews I’ve read about this, her second which focuses more on her relationship with her mother rather than with her dad (found in the first book) have all been sort of tepid. Yours perks my interest a bit, but of course, I’m still inclined not to do more than pontificate about it and save my reading time for 19th cent. U.S. History (especially the Beechers), dyke romances and a new-found curiosity about Boudica – got any recommendations for this last category? I would rather read a novel about her in the beginning than non-fiction, at the moment, but I’d be open if anyone knows a good biography.

  2. Sandy Nathan

    I appreciate hearing your thoughts about things to read. Out here on the Kansas prairie we have many advantages that you coastal people lack; talk of left-wing literature (and other such stuff), however, is not one of them.

  3. Patricia St Onge

    Thanks for this re-framing of cartoons! I got a chance to browse the other blogs you’ve posted. Great suggestions for my book group. See you soon!

  4. […] clever, this is not what Sacco is about.  In the tradition of Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?,  Sacco’s themes are serious.  Dead serious, as in about the politics which cause […]

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