Dear Match Book: It’s My First Foray Into Graphic Fiction – New York Times


Joon Mo Kang

Dear Match Book,

In the past year, my book club has moved from voting on selections to members taking turns picking books, which has resulted in a (welcome) diversity of topics and styles. It’s my turn to pick and I’m eager to choose something that would continue our streak of exploration. I’m thinking about picking a graphic novel. I have read “Maus,” by Art Spiegelman, and “Persepolis,” by Marjane Satrapi. I enjoyed both very much, but my experience with graphic literature is otherwise very limited. Could you get me started with some suggestions? The members of my book club are all women in their early 30s with a wide range of interests. Recent, well-liked selections have included “Pacific,” by Simon Winchester, a romance novel by Tessa Dare and “The Underground Railroad,” by Colson Whitehead, so I think we’re up for anything.

Sacramento, Calif.

Dear Shauna,

People who devoured comic books as kids have the edge when diving into graphic literature. Even if there are no panels or speech bubbles or sound effects rendered in bold, illustrative type, reading words and images together requires vigilant attention that may be unfamiliar to readers more accustomed to tumbling into a book made up entirely of text. Reading graphic novels feels a little like watching movie frame-by-frame while also reading subtitles. You can pick it up, but there’s a knack to it.

And though it’s a robust genre for adults, graphic novels and memoirs intended for younger audiences — the comic book-style civil rights memoir trilogy “March,” by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell; Gene Luen Yang’s linked historical novels about the Boxer Rebellion, “Boxers and Saints”; even the autobiographical middle-grade novel “El Deafo” by Cece Bell — have more than enough history, emotional resonance and style to satisfy your book group’s diverse set of interests.

The Big Picture

The seismic sweep of “Here,” by Richard McGuire, may inspire even the most reluctant artist to pick up a pencil while reading, not to sketch a scene, but to draw a timeline to keep all the eras covered — from 3,000,500,000 B.C. to the distant future — straight. It may sound unwieldy, but consider the narrow focus of the rest of the setting: the whole book takes place in the corner of one living room of a house built in 1907. It’s a wild, illuminated memory palace of a book — with only a smattering of dialogue and tantalizing wisps of plot. On most page spreads, painterly rectangles from different eras overlap to create visions, hauntings, explanations of déjà vu that echo throughout the room. On one set of pages women hold babies in 1957, 1949, 1924, 1988 and 1945. On another spread a girl lies on a rug in 1970, while a wooly mammoth from 10,000 B.C. hovers above her in another window. In 1916 there is an open casket. Family stories and the very long arc of history are revealed in glimpses, but the book’s sharpest feelings, conjured at the end, surround the ephemeral loveliness of everyday life.

Continue reading the main story


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