Graphic Novels Challenge – Mail Order Bride

This is a review that has been long in the making.  I’ve tried writing it several time but to no avail.  So it’s not due to lake of trying that this hasn’t been done yet, it’s that bad case of writers block I’ve been having.  I hope it’s gone now and posts will be happening more regularly.

Mail Order Bride was one of the best graphic novels I read for the graphic novels challenge.  The simplicity of the images on the page and the basic story and minimal dialogue really kept the story moving.  I found myself drawn into many of the details on the page.  The images were simple in that they were black and white and only had what was need to help move the story forward.

As one may guess the story is about a North American that gets a bride from Asia (Korea to be specific).  The problem that arises in this particular tale is that both have a different prospective on the relationship and each had a different hope for the outcome.  Monty Wheeler is looking for a stereotypical Asian woman to be his wife, he wants a woman that will do everything for him; his cooking and cleaning and be ready for his every beck and call.  His mail order bride is looking for a way out of her cultural heritage and ends up feeling the same restraints she had in her native country.

I really enjoyed reading this and the Korean cultural aspects were of great interest to me as I was there when I read this graphic novel.  I haven’t done any research on Mark Kalesniko so I don’t know what other work he has done but this has definitely piqued my interest and I’d been really interested to find more of his work.  If it’s as good as this one it would be devoured in a few hours.

Since I’ve read this book I’ve wondered how much of this is autobiographical which has somehow seeped into my sub-conscious and I think have begun wondering the same thing when I read other novels, particularly classics.  I wonder if that’s something that is normal, do any of you wonder how much or which parts of a novel are biographical while you read them?

One! Hundred! Demons! – Graphic Novels Challenge

It feels like it’s been a really long time since I wrote a review for the Graphic Novels Challenge, and now that I finished two books for this challenge on the weekend I thought I should maybe remedy that. And here it is, my forth review for the challenge. This time around I’ll be reviewing One! Hundred! Demons! by Lynda Barry. This is the only graphic novel that I’ve read or will read for this challenge that is in full colour. This is also the second graphic novel written by a woman, the first was Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Allison Bechdel. Many of the novels I selected for this challenge, interestingly enough, are biographical and this one is no exception.

Lynda Berry seems like quite the character, I don’t know her personally but I did listen to an interview of her shortly after I finished this book and she seems like someone I know. And let me tell the person she reminded me of is rather…umm…what’s the word I want to use…different?!?! But definitely someone I think I could be friends with, I think she would be a riot to hang out with. In the interview she was talking about this very book, One! Hundred! Demons! It was kind of interesting to hear a little more about the stories she told in this book. I guess I should explain One! Hundred! Demons! a little before I ramble on much more.

This graphic novel would best be described a collection of essays about Barry’s experiences, often growing up as an outsider. These essays are reminiscent of those by David Sedaris, with a slightly different type of wit. The book, from my understanding, came about while performing a painting exercise of the same title. Each chapter deals with a different demon (and no there aren’t one hundred chapters, she was selective in what she shared in this collection). There were two that particularly stick out; the first, “Head Lice and My Worst Boyfriend” in which Barry discusses her childhood discussions about lice (particularly the relationship between skin tone and lice colouring). The second, “The Aswang” which was about a mythical creature that was a dog by day (with hind legs longer than it’s fore legs) and would turn into a woman at dark that could break in two at the hip. Barry’s grandmother would often talk about the dreaded Aswang to torment her daughter (Barry’s mother).

I haven’t read anything else by Lynda Barry but this book has definitely peeked my interest. If I were to ever come across another book by her I would get it. I guess, that would mean I really enjoyed the novel. It was worth the read for the laughs that are present though-out the book. There were also some moments in the book that Barry reaches out to people from her past, even one she never met.

The pictures are done using the art of Asian painting techniques. It’s got the look of water colours, only a little brighter, in her story telling. The chapter titles are a collection various medium pulled together which force your eyes to linger a little longer. There is so much to absorb in these chapter titles, and you get some idea of they are like with the cover art. To conclude the book Barry guides the reads with a “how to” on how to use Asian-style brushwork to create your own demons.

There is one aspect of this book that irritated me to no end. I’m sure it’s not something that bothers most people but this almost prevented me from even wanting to read it. That being the constant switching from printing to cursive while Lynda Barry wrote. I’m not sure why this is done or if this done only in the book. It’s usually change for one or two words, and these words don’t seem to be for emphasis but maybe I’m missing something there.

I must say that I’m glad it didn’t stop me from reading this book. It was entertaining and worth the read.
Like most graphic novels this is a very quick read, but it seemed to have gone quicker than most. I think that is do to the wonderful story telling of Barry. Go out and find a copy of this book and devour it, maybe even create a demon or two or one hundred while you’re at it!