Saturday, December 31, 2005


I don't read comics or graphic novels. I don't like them. I never enjoyed the Sunday funnies, even as a kid, and even after taking several Garfield anthologies out of the library. Garfield was boring (lasagne, kick Odie, repeat), and Charlie Brown was depressing. I liked the idea of a continuing story, a daily serial, but I soon realized that television was a more satisfying medium for this.

The final straw that precluded a relationship between me and comics was when I was a babysitter. M was about 5, and every day his mom saved him the newspaper so he could cut out the spiderman and paste it into a book. I thought this was fantastic, except that he would sometimes ask me to read it to him (he couldn't read yet, himself). He also had some proper comic books which he'd pick for a bedtime story. Comics are not meant to be read aloud. In fact, by their very nature, it's impossible to express the whole story in words, and so I felt dumb reading them aloud. Try it sometime. It sounds awful. In addition, my eyes weren't so good and I hadn't yet acquired glasses, so I had to squint at the tiny writing. So eventually I told M that I wouldn't read him any more comics because I was old and my eyes didn't work so well anymore.

More than that, I don't like fantasy. Superheroes and their POW! action makes me cringe. That's not to say I haven't tried it. My mom took (dragged) me to Batman (the first one), and I hated it. I only marginally liked The Incredibles. I saw Spiderman 2 a couple of years ago. I don't know why. I liked the part when he lost his powers and was walking through a park or something all happy and free. But other than that, the movie is a blur, and I'd have been happier staying home and saving my nine-fifty. I noticed that the movie progressed like a comic book. It felt like a comic book. Which, I guess, is good if you like comic books. But for me, it felt broken, abrupt, and boring. For all the action, there just isn't a lot going on in that movie.

I refused to read Black Hole because of its grotesque themes and because of everything in the above three paragraphs. So Meera who for some reason is always challenging me to try new things instead of stay wrapped up in my comfort zone, gave me Blankets. It's a memoir, I think, of the author's first love, with some Christianity thrown in. I liked it better than expected.

I didn't like the characters. They were self-indulgent and depressing, even when they were being selfless and humble. I didn't want to be their friends, let alone relate to them. It's interesting that these characters were so similar to the girl in Speak, and yet I liked her and hated them.

I didn't like the infusion of religion. I understand that it was a big part of his life at the time, but I didn't relate, and I don't think his faith was adequately communicated. Or maybe I just wasn't listening.

I understand and liked the use of drawings. In most cases, they communicated more than the words could. Mostly, I liked the way they were used to show how a situation conjured up memories or dreams or thoughts of something else. I also liked the silence they created with a lack of words.

So, ok, not all graphic novels are bad. But don't make me read anything about superheroes or science fiction.


  1. Yay! I'm glad you read Blankets and gave it the same evaluative treatment you'd give a novel. That's all I wanted.

    I find it fascinating (and frustrating) that you want so much to be able to read about characters and situations that you can relate to. That's probably where 90% of your irritation with fantasy comes from, and I think it's totally legitimate -- some people read to transcend their own experiences, you seem to have a deep desire to see and understand your own experiences better -- but I also think you might be shutting yourself off from some important/valuable parts of reading.

    Some of the books and movies that I remember the most vividly and that have affected my thinking/feeling about the world in the most profound ways have been ones that have confused, disturbed, or completely bewildered me. (For example, every minute of "Punch-Drunk Love" made me shudder with pity and disgust, but to this day I wonder about its meaning and artistic intent.) And I never rule out a particular genre entirely, even if I don't usually enjoy it (action movies, heavy sci-fi); often I can be won over by the internal consistency, passion, or overall integrity of a piece of literature whose conventions bore me in theory.

    Long story short, I'm very critical of the things I consume (except reality tv, which like Olestra I do not digest), but I don't always require that they provide a pleasant experience and I try to see things from a critical perspective if I'm trying something I tend to dislike.

    your obnoxious friend

  2. The reason I exclude action movies from my list of likes is because it doesn't penetrate my senses. My mind seems to react defensively to the abrasion of those scenes, and I might as well be asleep, because I'm not absorbing anything. It's as if they don't exist. So a movie like Spiderman or Terminator ends up being 10 minutes of movie and 100 minutes of sitting in a chair.

    I think our different tastes in books (and movies) stems from different objectives. Why do you read? What makes a book good? I'm still trying to figure this out.

  3. Oh dear, I love this one too. You and I seem to be on opposite sides when it comes to books.

    (This was also a phenomenon with Meera and I in grad school; I lost count of how many times we had completely opposite views on books. I think she's more patient than I am.)

    I love comics and graphic novels and books with bits of fantastic-ness in them are my very favorites. Full-on fantasy and sci-fi I take in occasionally.

    I also like action movies -- not all, but those with a plot beyond Things Blowing up and People Dying, including the Terminator movies -- and science fiction movies. And comic-book movies.

    Why do I read...? Entertainment and vocabulary-building purposes, methinks. Ha ha. I read to see What Happens Next. Must ponder further.

    Erica, could you list some specific books you like? What are your favorites?