Sunday, September 5, 2010


On the recommendation of a friend, who insists that he must "get me into graphic novels," I read Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and finished it last night. (Today I read Mockingjay, but I'm still processing. Will probably review that in the next post.)

Overall, I enjoyed it. The Iranian history is fascinating, and viewing it through the lens of a personal memoir is doubly so. (I did think the section that takes place in Vienna dragged a little.) However, I confirmed what I already suspected - I'm not really a graphic novel kind of girl.

It's not that I think they're a lower literary form or any nonsense like that. It's just that my little brain can't handle text and pictures at the same time. Pictures alone, great (art museums!). Text alone, great (books!). Both together - too much to process. When I'm really into a story, I can't bring myself to slow down and look at each panel. Plus, I'm so used to making up my own pictures to go along with the story, that I feel frustrated by the author's attempt to tie me down to pre-chosen images.

BUT I think it says a lot for Satrapi's writing that I could get so into the story even without paying much attention to the illustrations. Her space was so limited that she couldn't afford to waste a word, and she didn't. In almost every panel, she hit exactly the right tone, chose exactly the right details, maintained an optimum balance between inner narration and outer dialogue. It's brilliant.

I think that if I was forced to put my stories into comic strips, I'd learn an awful lot about my writing, really fast: Where am I most likely to waste space? What do I avoid cutting at all costs? And is my voice strong enough to ring clearly through only a handful of words?

While I'm not going to sit down and write a graphic novel, Satrapi's work is a wonderful model of tight writing, and reading Persepolis has encouraged me to keep polishing my own prose, until every word pulls it own weight, and more.

1 comment:

  1. Though I am loath to try it because of the time commitment, it would be an interesting exercise to redo a manuscript as a graphic novel for all the reasons you mentioned: where's the wasted space, what can't I cut, how strong is my voice, etc.