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Book 3

  1. Grossmith, George & Weedon — The Diary of a Nobody (166 pages)
  2. McCarthy, Cormac — Blood Meridian (334 pages)
  3. Moore, Alan & Dave Gibbons — Watchmen (399 pages)

Page count: 899.

I used to hold graphic novels in complete contempt. I would scoff when, for example, talking about Gaiman's books someone would mention Sandman. "No, I mean his real books," was a typical thought, whether voiced or not. I don't know why this literary snobbery. I don't think I read so much as a comic book growing up, and I'm not usually so closed-minded about things with which I'm not familiar.

When I learned last year that Watchmen was listed in Time's list of 100 greatest books of the 20th century, I became curious. I mean, there is no shortage of great books from the last century, so to make such a list is no mean accomplishment. I casually dug a little deeper: learned Watchmen won a Hugo and that there's a movie coming out soon. That last bit was the kicker. If I was going to read Watchmen, it had to be before I watched the movie.

I don't think any book I've ever read has drawn so many unsolicited comments from others. I've had random strangers assure me I was in for a treat. One asked me where I bought it so she could buy it for her husband. Others expressed envy that they weren't reading it. I didn't hear any negative feedback. I can now understand why.

I'm not sure I would list Watchmen in the top 100, but it is a fantastic novel. It isn't at all what I expected. Yes, I did expect traditional superheroes. No, I did not see the ending coming. I previously regarded the graphic novel as a two-dimensional medium, incapable of expressing complex thoughts and emotions. Watchmen shattered my assumptions. The story line is complex and compelling. The artwork adds an extra dimension that not only complements the story but at times gives essential plot elements not conveyed by the narrative. And I love the background material that Moore inserts between each chapter. That really helped give Watchmen the feel of a puzzle that needs to be pieced together from all the different clues, visual, narrative, and documentary.

Now I am eager to read more graphic novels. A work colleague has sent me recommendations, and I've mined the web for "top x" lists. I'm sure you'll have plenty of recommendations for me, too. I think I want to read Maus, Bone, the Sandman stuff, something by Frank Miller, and something else by Alan Moore. What graphic novel(s) do you think I should read next?

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
minkrose
Mar. 1st, 2009 11:04 pm (UTC)
The first graphic novel I ever read was one that Jimmy lent to me (which I think adds some positive weight to the recommendation): Alan Moore's FROM HELL.

I joined a graphic novel book club recently because I knew that was the only way I could be in a book club and NOT re-read things I've read a million times before (being an English major who also loves classics in the western tradition). Yet somehow, we still ended up reading FROM HELL, so now I have my own copy.

Sandman was wonderfully written but it wasn't really my thing. I don't love graphic novels the way I love books. I still have a special place in my heart for American Gods. Still, it is something I felt I *had* to read as a Gaiman fan and I'm glad that I did.

Enjoy your quest! There are some really amazing graphic novels out there. I think most of what you've got on your list would be "better" than the stuff we've been reading in the club, mostly because they are trying not to re-read things themselves.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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