Saturday, January 22, 2005

'Epileptic,' and the popularity of the graphic novel

In The New York Times Sunday Book Review, author Rick Moody sets out to critique David B.'s Epileptic, but instead devotes the first half of the article to assessing the status of graphic novels in literature:
People are devouring the graphic novel across the whole range of human I.Q.'s. It's not uncommon now for readers of literature to admire Chris Ware or Julie Doucet or Joe Sacco or Joe Matt with a partisan vigor formerly reserved for renegades like Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan. Among the reasons for this popularity is that comics are currently better at the sociology of the intimate gesture than literary fiction is. Literary fiction, obsessed on the one hand with defending itself against the popularity of cinema, is too preoccupied with story. On the other hand, in competing with poetry, it is occasionally dazzled by abstraction and cerebral firepower. Between the two once lay the novel of manners, in which we found Henry James perfectly depicting the way an American ingenue wore a gown or entertained a suitor. You read this kind of social observation only infrequently today. But Chris Ware is great at drawing it. So is Chester Brown, for example, in his bittersweet graphic novel ''I Never Liked You.''