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Two Novels, One Graphic, One Not…

September 2, 2008

Example

Too Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson

Greetings all.
Though I mentioned at the end of the last review that my current reading was of the decidedly non-recreational variety, I decided that my weary brain needed a break so I set aside the heavy (in all senses of the word) text that had taken over my reading life.
Fortunately I had a couple of things waiting in the on-deck circle, neither of which was particularly heavy, so I took myself a small reading vacation.
The first thing I read was a short graphic novel – another BoingBoing recommendation – ‘Too Cool to Be Forgotten’ by Alex Robinson.
I’ve gone on in this space before about my experiences (often positive) with the graphic novel format, and I’m happy to say that ‘Too Cool…’ is very, cool that is.
“Graphic Novel” has become a catch-all for any long(er) form comic with literary pretensions (sometimes actually delivered upon). Alex Robinson’s ‘Too Cool to Be Forgotten’ is probably closer to a longer short story than a novel. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’d be the first to admit that some of the greatest writers have worked in the form. Robinson is both an excellent storyteller – in both words and pictures – and I found ‘Too Cool…’ to be one of the more moving entries in the genre.
I won’t spoil it for you, other than to say that the book is a fantastic look at adolescence and high school as seen through the eyes of approaching middle age. Maybe it hits closer to the bone because I’m about the same age as the protagonist, and have many of the same regrets about my high school years (and I’d be suspicious of anyone that didn’t). I suspect however that anyone that’s experienced high school from anything but the very top of the social heap will find a great deal of truth in this book.
Highly recommended.

Example

The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time by Mark Haddon

My most recent read came along unexpectedly in a box of books mailed to us by my in-laws. I’d heard a lot about ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’, and as it was among the shortest book in the pile that interested me, I grabbed it and plowed through it in a few days. Though the first impression, via the title (a Sherlock Holmes reference), word of mouth and the jacket copy, suggested to me that this was a mystery of sorts, in the end the book is more an impression (from within) of the world of a teenager with Aspergers Syndrome, and how he navigates (with varying degrees of success) the world around him.
The author, Mark Haddon tells most of the story from the point of view of the protagonist Christopher Boone, but manages to move the story, and put events in context using the actions and reactions of those around him, some who know Christopher and are aware of (and often sympathetic to) his condition, and many who are not.
Though I can’t say with any certainty how accurate the portrayal of Aspergers is – and there have apparently been many (some with the condition) who have disagreed with Haddon’s portrayal of his main character – I have been doing some reading about this end of the Autism Spectrum, and I applaud Haddon for attempting to shine some light on a condition that is increasingly common, yet barely known to most people.
That said, ‘The Curious Incident…’ is a very interesting and thought provoking book, and the literary device he employs, while drawing tangents to the “outside” world, as well as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories (there is a mystery of sorts here, just not what you’d expect) really drew me in.
Also highly recommended.
Now reading – Vols. 1&2 of the Fables graphic novel by Bill Willingham.

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