For a long time, I avoided using the term graphic novel. No matter how good they were, even when the comics I was reading had characteristics of novels, I still thought of them as comic books. The name just seemed a bit desperate – like a kid puffing himself up to get served at the beer store.
I didn’t think comics should have to credentialize themselves or apologize for being comics. Over the last couple of years, however, I’ve been reading some illustrated sequential tomes that actually seem like novels.
Most recently, I picked up David Small‘s memoir Stitches. Not only was it fantastic, it felt like I had read a novel: the detailed evocation of place and time through little details; the powerful, painful moments of childhood torment; the powerful characters; and the sense it left me with – I absorbed and appreciated much of its greatness, but I will be coming back to read it again.
But here’s what floored me. I read the whole thing in 45 minutes.
This is not meant to belittle the book. It’s fantastic.
The art is great. Small is largely known as an illustrator of children’s books. He marries a fantastic gift for faces and expression with a very cinematic sense of perspective, framing and storyboarding.
The story is gripping and rewarding. It was powerful, and I’ve been thinking about it all day… since reading it last night in 45 minutes.
There is now so much amazing illustrated work being published across so many genres, choosing to read literary fiction almost seems spoiled to me – like watching a silent movie.
Go get Stitches. Treat yourself.
(If you need more convicing, David Small’s website has more art, interviews, etc. to give you the flavour of it.)