ALEX READS GRAPHIC NOVELS TOO FAST - Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The new Bibliothèque National has yards of graphic novels, so I'm reading Hellblazer and The Preacher, comix which I've dipped into from time to time, but rarely bought, because comix are an expensive habit. Ten dollars worth of comix go by in about an hour at the pace I read. Which is probably too fast. I always want to know how things turn out. I'm sure that the point of the graphic novel medium is to luxuriate in the artwork, because otherwise why would you need the artwork at all?

To be honest I generally try to avoid buying books, either. I just read them too fast, and I rarely reread them, so what is the point of having them on the shelves? Bearing in mind that Lisa and I already have six tall bookshelves packed with books we might possibly need again at some point, like dictionaries and John Brunner novels, plus more books in boxes in my parents' house. And while I could no doubt afford more books, we don't have walls for more shelves.

Besides, buying books seems so, well, 20th Century. Circulating them is where it's at.

I have tried to learn to read more slowly, along the way to generally enjoying life in the moment more, and not trying to hasten on to the end, which is, after all, the end. But old habits die hard. I read a feature screenplay in about twenty minutes.

I guess that's one thing I like about the dramatic arts. I don't fast forward through the plots. I'm forced to appreciate the story at the intended pace. (Though my DVD player has a nifty 1.2x speed setting that keeps dialog perfectly clear.)

I've noticed, though, that quite a few writers I respect are graphic novel fans. Joss Whedon talks about how he has to send his assistant to Golden Apple when he's too busy ("how lame is that?" quoth the Joss). John Rogers, obviously. Kevin Smith, who bought hisself a comic store after he scored his f***-you money early on. And then there are story tellers out of comics, like Neil Gaiman and, I am told, director JP Jeunet.

I wonder how fast they read their comics?

I wonder what they're reading, and why?

2 Comments:

one of the things i generally like about reading is the creation of the world inside my head, so that the text serves as a schematic which i fill in, an option which graphic novels remove -- so that there's not much space for one's imagination.

By Blogger miklos rosza, at 12:02 AM  

I've heard that alot over the years and usually respond with something like: you watch films don't you, or do you only listen to the radio and let dialogue serve as a schematic to fill in?

See, what you're doing is ignoring the contribution an artist makes to a comic's storytelling. The artwork in comics doesn't exist only to provide a scene to paste word balloons over, it offers indispensable clues to mood and characterisation and theme. It is as much a storytelling device as the dialogue - look at the symmetry in something like Watchmen's composition to see this.

In fact, read Watchmen and try, I dare you, to imagine how any of it could work in any other medium.

I'm sorry if this comes across as hostile, I just get tired of hearing the "comics are for lazy readers" argument. They are not regular novels with pictures, but something that needs to be judged by different critical criteria.

By Blogger Lee, at 8:42 AM  

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