Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Graphic Novels & Manga

Am home for a week, and could not resist the urge to finally visit Mumbai Landmark after a gap of almost six months. There were a few pleasant reshuffles there. On the Literary fiction side, the store has not added many authors - just a few more titles from some of theiold favorites. A huge section dedicated to Clezio (I find this over-the-top allegiance to the latest award winner a little vulgar). It has also expanded the Classics section to a degree, adding more titles from Dostoevsky, and more importantly, more titles from the Penguin Great Ideas and Great Journeys series. (From both I have high expectations, esp after loving the Great Loves series)

However, where Landmark has gone for a complete revamp is in its graphic novel section. From what was a small side-shelf earlier, the section now extends to 5-6 wall cabinets and 2-3 side shelves. From superheroes to Manga, from Alan Moore to Paul Auster - the collection is wide and rewarding. So far, my exposure to graphic novels had been restricted to Persepolis, not a bad introduction at all. However, sitting in Landmark for some time, I tried to get a sense of the Japanese art form - Manga, something that has been on my to-do list for sometime.

I read/saw one of the famous Manga artists: Yoshihiro Tatsumi's work Good-bye. A brilliant collection of short stories, drawing the despair of post-Hiroshima Japan. Each story attempts to depict alienation, a stronger and much longer lasting impact of the bombings. There is the strangely terrifying tale Hell, where a photographer takes a picture of a mother and son etched in the wall immediately after the bombings and is haunted by its memory for years. In another story, the Tibetan ritual of sky burials seems to invade the entire country, which finds itself full of vultures and death. I have not read the entire collection, and one of these days I plan to return to Landmark and complete it. (One disadvantages of the graphic novel is that they are still too expensive to add to the personal collection - 900/- for this collection - No way till I am into the genre!)
Tatsumi's variation of Manga is better known as Gekiga, which literally means dramatic pictures. (To distinguish its authors from Manga - which means Irresponsible pictures). Unlike Manga, which like comic books is aimed at children, Gegika was an attempt to provide a graphic book for adult readers. The distinction is the same as comic books and graphic novels, though now more and more comic books are crossing the threshold of children's themes to induct serious philosophy in even the superhero tales.

I bought another graphic novel: Paul Auster's City of Glass., which is a graphic adaptation of Auster's original story. I am now in the middle of reading this meta fiction (which is strongly reminiscent of Borges' short stories). It is a detective tale, where the detective gets drwan into a crazy case and begins to lose his touch on life and reality. The interplay of graphics and words is quite remarkable in this one - specifically a monologue from one of the characters, where, as he tells his life story, his words are shown to come out of various places: gramophones, basin sinks, some cave paintings. Not only do these graphics seem to concur with the bizarre tale, they also carry the distant echoing intonation of the voice. I have not read the original story, but am certainly enjoying this more expressive form.


Jigar said...

Paul Auster's New york Trilogy(a set of three tales in which 'city of glass' belongs) is I guess one of the best exitential mysteries ever written. It has dashes of Beckett.

I will have to check the magna, but I think you will enjoy the original as well. If you don't owe the copy of Auster's book, you have something really interesting to purchase from landmark!

Madhuri said...

I have never read Beckett. I think there is never enough time to check out everything worth checking. I will try him, and also the NYC trilogy (which I had already begun to look for). Thanks for the recommendation.

sandeephalder said...

nice blog. I recently picked up barn owl's wondrous caper by sarnath banerjee. nice one to recommend. though this genre is new in india it has started of really well.

Madhuri said...

Hi Sandeep - yes, I have seen some Indian works in the genre (Kari, for example, which has been all over the place). I still have to try any of it though. Thanks for the recommendation.