May's graphic novel was Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. While I hadn't finished the book by the date of the meeting, I was so enthralled by its introduction, I made sure I was in attendance. Now that I have finished the book, my next job is to make sure I share its magnificence with you.
It is so rare that one finds themselves experiencing a piece of art so perfectly suited to its medium as is the case with Asterios Polyp. This book, this story, this piece of artwork could only be truly shared as a graphic novel. The story is told wholly on each page through the dialogue, the art, the colors, the lettering, and the page layouts; and every single one of those pieces comes together to lift a possibly commonplace tale of a bad guy seeing the light on to a pedestal of artistry that is so deep only multiple exposures could begin to reveal its totality.
Is this a story about one man, Asterios Polyp? Is it about his marriage? Is it about life? Could it be about your life? It is not surprising, at all, to learn that David Mazzucchelli spent ten years of his life working on this book. As the reader delves deeper into the story Mazzucchelli's decisions and careful planning begin to weave into your psyche - certain colors stand for certain places, characters and moods; each character has their own lettering for their speech, and their speech bubbles continue to reflect their personality; the name of almost every single person is begging you to notice it even when it is something as simple as Hana... Nothing is left to chance.
We spent a little over an hour talking about this book in our book club and barely touched the surface. One could easily design a course around this book examining each layer and its intent. With that said, this book is not for everyone.
Although it is an Eisner Award winning book and most of the club agreed that this should be among the top two books we've ever read (if we ever get around to *officially* ranking them!), there were others who simply could not get into it. Here's my perspective on this: I am (at times) a deep reader and thoroughly enjoy layers upon layers of possible meanings within a text, a film or a theatrical production; there are others who seek these same entertainments only as a source of escapism and fun. If you are the latter (or are simply in the mood for the latter), Asterios Polyp may not be the book for your shelf. However, I must warn against this: do not attempt to know your true opinion of this book without reading it in its entirety. This story is not told in a linear fashion, but the only way to get all of it is to go from beginning to end. Read it through, then think on it and, perhaps, read it through again. I plan to. I have finished reading this book, but I am no where near done with it.
I highly recommend this book to graphic novel readers. If it is not already, I imagine it shall become part of the unofficial graphic novel canon of greats which include mentions of Maus and Persepolis. For those who are unfamiliar with graphic novels as a medium, this may be an interesting leap as a first read. It will definitely demonstrate all of the tools available within the design that every graphic novel writer and artist has at their disposal.
Have you read Asterios Polyp? If so, what did you think?
Are you a graphic novel reader? Why or why not?