This is the kind of work that makes my head turn inside out, a bit. The amount of knowledge, personal danger, painstaking work and openness required to produce Joe Sacco’s journalistic graphic novel of the war in Bosnia is mind-boggling. There’s no way I can possibly provide an adequate summary here, but I admire this book so much and I wanted to at least present it as a recommended read. The subtitle of Safe Area: Gorazde is The War in Eastern Bosnia, 1992-95; that’s as succinct as anyone could possibly be about the subject matter, but it doesn’t convey how personal the book feels. It’s terribly human. Intricate and expressive black and white drawings owe a stylistic debt to R. Crumb, but also have an unavoidable plainness and confrontation that are all Sacco’s. Intimate, painful, informative and generous. Also look for Palestine, his graphic novel that won the American Book Award in 1996. Drawn & Quarterly has published his collection of graphic short stories called The Fixer, and I believe he also has a graphic novel out about Gaza. All of which makes me even more mind-boggled and grateful for Sacco’s storytelling generosity.
I’m a graphic novel junkie. It’s a medium that’s not only beautiful, but powerful as well. If I had one single skill that would qualify me to work for them, I’d spend my days sitting on the doorstep at Drawn & Quarterly until they hired me. Grand High Mistress of Pencil Drawings. Something like that. Only without drawing, because I can’t do it. Instead, I content myself with buying and reading lots and lots of graphic novels. Curses is one of the best. This is a book I both have and haven’t read. My sister gave it to me for Christmas the year it was published, and I am so in love with it that I couldn’t bring myself to read all of it until there’s a new book on the horizon. I’ve reread most of the book three times, but I still have the last two stories saved up. Drawn & Quarterly is publishing a new book by Kevin Huizenga in April of this year, so I can finally read the last two and look forward to new work.
Huizenga mostly writes a character named Glenn Ganges, a Midwestern suburbanite whose crises of soul are set in a backdrop of strip malls and pancake houses. His drawings have an incredible depth and sense of lightness and float, conveyed with very simple lines; the complexity of the ideas and emotion brought out through these simple lines is amazing. Curses is full of disparate storylines, but has an underlying sense of the magics and horrors present in individual experience. The panel below is from a story called Not Sleeping Together, as quiet and intimate and unsettling a treatise on insomnia as you could ever hope to see.