REVIEW: Persepolis

The graphic novel market is one that has impressively expanded over time and is the perfect vehicle for Marjane Satrapi to engage audiences in her memoir of the after-effects of the Islamic Revolution in Iran during the ‘80s, Persepolis.

I am a fan of non-fiction and take pleasure in learning as much as I can about the world and it’s citizens, but it can be daunting to take on history books or at least those whose intended audience is assumed to have a background and the lexicon to support it. Usually lacking a clear narrative and heart, they leave me cold. I absorb knowledge more easily when personal context is involved.  

Young Marjane’s experiences of the revolution translate beautifully to the graphic art form. Upheaval in society, rioting, and war are all issues that pack more punch when depicted visually; not just reliant on the written word. It’s easy to become detached from and dehumanize events like the Islamic Revolution when you are simply reading recorded facts. Satrapi makes it impossible (much like Art Spiegelmen did with Maus in the ’90s) for a reader to disengage via the graphics of Persepolis. None of the imagery is explicit, but it puts a face to a piece of history. In addition, there is the added impact of experiencing events through the eyes of a child, which broadens the allure of the memoire. 

We should be indebted to those authors like Marjane Satrapi who incorporate the use of the visual arts to bring knowledge to the masses.

Rating: 4 Protests

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REVIEW: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

I decided to add a contemporary YA novel to my list this year for a few reasons, one of them being that I have little to no idea what’s out there for kids these days (beside the Twilight and Hunger Games worlds), additionally the YA novels of my time were integral in shaping my love of literature and sense of self. I was very pleased to discover that a novel like Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda exists.

Even if the character development and writing style were stripped away, Albertalli would still get high marks solely for the basic narrative in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Adventure. A problem generally exhibited in YA novels, films, and TV is the attempt to tackle every topical issue at once as opposed to focusing on one major issue and allowing others to pop up organically. This flaw weakens the intended impact.  Albertalli, on the other hand, hits the nail on the head with her approach to dealing with common teen issues in today’s society without over saturating her plot. While the main story follows Simon and his journey as he copes with his sexuality, Albertalli peppers in other issues (cyber bullying, heartache, alienation) without distracting from the main narrative.

Now, we add in Albertalli’s easy but high quality style (another general issue I have with YA…we should be upping kid’s literacy game, not dumbing things down for them) and fully realized characters. Well, there’s very little to critique.

Far too often we project unrealistic images onto younger generations of what their high school experience should be, Albertalli’s ability to keep it real throughout Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is what corralled my attention from beginning to end. I was giddy (yes, me, giddy) getting caught up in Simon’s email exchanges with his mystery crush. I felt a part of Simon’s social circle, because I’ve been there too.

Rating: 4 Secret Admirers

Special shoutout to SW for the recommendation

 

REVIEW: Of Love and Other Demons

Gabriel García Márquez. An author who has continuously entranced me with his vibrancy and ability to balance the surreal and real. An author I have committed myself to because he had me at “hello” (I reviewed him last year as well: The Story of a Ship-Wrecked Sailor). But, as with all relationships, the honeymoon phase had to end at some point and now we get down to the nitty gritty.

Don’t get me wrong, Of Love and Other Demons exhibited many of the qualities which led me to fall for Márquez: an air of mystery, passion, ­­­and fluid writing. Yet, I was not fully invested in the plot. I started Of Love and Other Demons about 3 times in an attempt to determine if my current mood was the factor deterring me from becoming engaged. However, as it transpired, the novel never grasped me.

Much like my feelings towards The Sound of Things Falling (legit spent about 10 minutes coming up with that title because it left such a little impression on me), I can’t quite put my finger on why I couldn’t connect with this novel. I find this to be frustrating. As I hope I have made obvious, I like to be able to support and express my opinions with clarity. I believe my discontent was a mixture of a few things:

  • The balance Márquez generally creates was off; typically, the fantasy Márquez adds never detracts from the ability of the reader to accept that his stories are capable of existing in reality, it merely enhances them. The fantasy Of Love and Other Demons enhanced the narrative a bit too much for my taste. 
  • I was disinterested in the characters. They are well constructed, but I was apathetic to their fates. I can’t work out why.
    • As a result I was indifferent to their relationships. And since the novel’s main focus is on the relationship between a young girl and a priest, this was an issue.
  • You know I’m seriously struggling sorting through something when I start making lists. (Holy alliteration, batman)

So for now I will go with: well written book, still a fan of the author, the general concept just wasn’t my cup of tea.

 

Rating: 3.5 Rabid Exorcisms

 

REVIEW: The Princess Bride

I’ve rewritten this review multiple times trying to throw in more of the technicalities of the novel, but I can’t be objective on this one. It is a story that has been too much a part of my heart for so long. This review is in fact a love note to William Goldman.

How a person can currently exist without knowing the truest way to say “I love you” is “as you wish” is a concept I have yet to grasp. But, there seems to be a population of fully grown humans who have never seen The Princess Bride. (Lookin at you best friend.) A film which helped shaped my childhood and foster my off-beat sense of romance; it is one I return to frequently, quote often, and think of when I need a smile. So, naturally, it took me 30 years to read the damn book (inconceivable, I know).

William Goldman redefined the fairytale genre with The Princess Bride. Relating the
main story of romance and adventure to us via an abridgment of the “original” novel, with annotations by our narrator, Goldman himself, sets the tone of whimsy from page 1. Though the framework of The Princess Bride’s plot is quite standard, Goldman zests it up with his over-the-top cast of characters, unconventional humor, and twisted wit. Goldman’s manipulation of a formulaic genre which has spanned centuries makes The Princess Bride an instant classic which speaks to all generations. A classic that is brilliantly executed in both media and print.

While he adds his own flare to the emblematic romance world, Goldman never forgets the root of the tale, the thing we all really yearn for: true love.

Rating: 4 Rodents Of Unusual Size