Friday, October 30, 2009

NYRB Challenge Book #7: A Classic Graphic Novel. . .

Whew, it's been a busy week with a lot of work reading, so I've only had time for a quickie. But NYRB can thankfully oblige; they have plenty of short little gems and this month, they've published their first graphic novel, (could any genre be more trendy right now?) which I read this morning on the bus to work. And trust NYRB to find not only a classic graphic novel (first published in 1969), but one in translation as well.

Poem Strip by Dino Buzzati, translated from the Italian by Marina Harss, is a modern retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. Orfi, who is a successful pop singer sees his girlfriend Eura disappear into a tiny door set into a wall, and taking his guitar, he sets off to follow her. He is quickly stopped by the Guardian, a brown sports jacket minus a body, who tells Orfi that while people in the underground may seem happy because there's no more sickness or death or sexual longing, they are also bored. Before letting Orfi in to search for Eura, he will have to sing, to remind the inhabitants of all they have lost. Buzzati then illustrates several of the songs before embarking on the final sequence when Orfi finally finds his beloved. And well, you all know how that's likely to end. . .

I'm not really a huge graphic novel fan, but I found this entertaining enough. It definitely is a beautiful package - full colour, glossy paper. The artwork is Edward Gorey meets Federico Fellini. And the author includes artists as diverse as Salvador Dali and Caspar David Friedrich in his acknowledgements. It is a bit dated though. Did I mention that whenever any women enter the underworld, they immediately lose all their clothes and get huge breast implants? Here is a sampling of spreads that are not x-rated, to give you an idea of the look.

Buzzati has also illustrated and written a children's book, The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily, that is published by NYRB's Children's Collection.

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