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reading the adventures of jimmy corrigan by chris ware

In thinking about my books for next semester (for my Composition II course), I wanted to use something a little different–a challenging text but one that might appeal to students and one that might feel a little more contemporary. My colleague, Sheryl, suggested Jimmy Corrigan: the smartest kid on earth by Chris Ware. I’ve dipped into graphic literature a little in the past, but when I read that the book was a more “difficult” text dealing with issues of abandonment, social isolation and despair, and set in Chicago, I was sold. I’ll be working through this text (and I do expect it to be some work) and writing more here as I do so.

Update 2/16/09
I finished reading this book months ago–back in December–, but haven’t seemed to find the time or energy to update my post here. I’ll give it a go now. While the text is definitely more difficult than the typical graphic novel (in my experience), in the end I didn’t find it nearly as inaccessible as some critics have suggested. In fact, quite the contrary, it drew me in. While I may have paused to ponder a page, or even a frame, for a good ten or fifteen minutes, I worked through the overall book rather quickly. It came quickly, but it has yet to leave me nearly two months later, which is perhaps why I’ve avoided writing about it.

The book tells the story of four generations of fathers and sons through a non-linear, sometimes overlapping, narrative. We learn about the present day protagonist Jimmy Corrigan through his his action (or inaction) as he meets his father for the first time and then through subsequent glimpses of both his grandfather’s and great grandfather’s life. A clear lineage of emotional distance and indifference of father toward son emerge from the tale amidst the backdrop of mid-western winters from current times to the late 19th century.

It is a haunting story. Having my own share of daddy issues, it leaves me still thinking about the entirety of what I will pass to my own son–and my future grandchildren. I will return to this post…

Update 2/22/09

I’ve decided to use The Adventures of Jimmy Corrigan in Composition II course this semester. We will be engaging in an alternative research project called Mystoriography. (This is a pedagogical method first conceived by Gregory Ulmer of the University of Florida.) I’ve had my composition students play with this method in the past, but I’m hoping to take the process deeper this time around. In fact, I am hoping to engage in the creation of such a project myself–or at least the start of one. I will be using Ware’s graphic novel as a kind of “tutor text” to anchor us in our projects. This approach will most certainly have Ware’s book working through us as much as we will be working through it. Look for more on this coming soon… (likely in another thread of posts).

reading pyongyang by guy delisle

Post started: 8/7/08:I took my first sojourn with serious graphic literature last summer when I read Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis–an amazing memoir of a Satrapi coming of age in Iran during the cultural revolution. I highly recommend it. This summer, I thought I’d dip back into this fascinating (and under-recognized genre) with another graphic memoir. This time Pyongyang by Guy Delisle. As usual, I’ll post an update as I get into it or once I’ve completed it. I expect it will read quickly.

Update 8/22/08: I finished Pyongyang the day after I started this post but am only now getting back to it. (Prepping for the start of fall semester has got me neglecting the blog a little.) Anyway, I found Pyongyang a dismal, dark, and moving portrait of North Korea’s [singlepic=173,225,225]  from Pyongyangshowcase capital. Delisle paints an austere picture of a place couched in absurd lies, under the yoke of fear and suffocating oppression–but also void of resistance of even the slightest kind and lacking of all human affect. What I found most fascinating about this quick reading graphic novel was its very subtle story arc. Nothing really happens in any very dramatic sense. Rather, Delisle spends much of his time hoping and roaming for much more than there is–in his work there, in the food, the people, the culture. What’s striking is the weight of oppression Delisle himself feels in the memoir and, in turn, the oppression the reader begins to feel. It left me short of breath, as if I was trapped in close quarters–in a closet of darkness–a space too cramped to even turn around freely. The closing panels of the book moved me as Delisle one last time sends a paper airplane from his hotel window toward the Taedong river (a personal ritual he started during his stay). Watching it sail, grabbing the window ledge, “C’mon! Go!” he said.

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