Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Graphic Canon, Volume 3: From Heart of Darkness to Hemingway to Infinite Jest

Representing huge swaths of literature in visual manners is a huge undertaking, as is trying to review all the intricacies of such a volume. Because it's that time of the year for me, I do not know if my brain or energy level is up for the task of describing these myriad adaptations, but suffice it to say that as a whole this book is impressive, thought-provoking, striking, daring in parts, and excellent for fostering discussions about representation and analysis. Russ Kick's third volume of the Graphic Canon contains a huge range of styles and interpretations of literature beginning from the late 19th century and extending to the end of the 20th, and it touches on more works from outside of the traditional European canon than the second volume did.

My favorite things in this book are the scattered "Three Panel Review" comics by Lisa Brown. They just tickled my funny bone with the way they simultaneously commented on and distilled books into comic strips.

A good number of the entries are more visual interpretations that do not have much textual accompaniment, such as

Graham Rawle's photo-diaramas of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Laura Plansker's photo-diaramas of Animal Farm
T. Edward Bak's spare adaptation of The Maltese Falcon

PMurphy's impressionistic panels from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Onsmith's frenetic panels interpreting J.G. Ballard's Crash
Other entries melded illustrations with the original text, such as Anthony Ventura's interpretation of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

Other entries used more sequential art styles and conventions to both adapt and interpret literary works.

Sonia Leong's appropriately manga-flavored version of Reginald
David Lasky re-imagining James Joyce's Ulysses as mini-comics
Peter Kuper adapting more Kafka tales in paranoid, impressionistic ways
Trevor Alixopulos capturing the wild, deranged sides of Lord of the Flies
Jason Cobley coordinating a contextualized "Dulce et Decorum Est"
C. Frakes 1-page chapter summaries of The Age of Innocence
There is even a smattering of nonfiction pieces, such as Steve Rolston's adaptation of an Ernest Hemingway newspaper article "Living on $1000 a Year in Paris."

One of the aspects I appreciate most about this book is its selection of artists. I was unfamiliar with many until seeing them here for the first time, and I am glad to have been introduced to their work. As you can see from the images above, there is so much to peruse, mull over, and digest in these images. This book is chock full of literary and aesthetic goodness.

I have not been able to find many reviews about this volume in particular, but the entire project has generated much praise and good will. Henry Chamberlain called Volume 3 "such a mighty undertaking that you just can’t go wrong." The folks at Publishers Weekly named it one of the summer's best books and called it "the most beautiful book of 2013."

The Graphic Canon, Volume 3 was published by Seven Stories Press. Excerpts, information, reviews, and more can be found at the book's official site.

Thank you so much to Jesse for the review copy!

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