Thursday, March 05, 2009

Reader's Diary #464- David B: Epileptic

"When oh when will somebody give us a novel about epileptics?"
- Mordecai Richler (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz)

I just happened to be reading Richler's The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and David B's Epileptic at the same time. Imagine my surprise to find an epileptic character in both books. I love coincidences like that. Recently I got Maya Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. The same day, I'm reading along in Anthony De Sa's Barnacle Love and lo and behold, there's a quote from Angelou's book. It's some sort of whacked out conspiracy, man!

That's all a side note to David B's Epileptic, a graphic novel that was recommended to me by Dale and Olga back in December.

Epileptic is David B's memoir about growing up in a family affected by his brother's epilepsy. "Affected" is to put it mildly. His brother Jean-Christophe may be the one with the seizures, but everyone suffers with helpless, embarrassment, guilt, confusion, and, and, and,

At times the story became tedious and repetitive. In fruitless efforts to cure Jean-Christophe, the family tries various medicines, psychology, diets (most notably a macrobiotic diet), religion and just about every esoteric practice known to man. It's the esotericism that started to get to me: Swedenborgism, voodoo, alchemy, and so on. This aspect started out really interesting but then I just found myself cringing everytime the family sought out a new guru. I get it, they were desperate. Enough already.

If it was a regular novel, it wouldn't have worked.

Fortunately, it's not a regular novel. The story is saved a hundred times over with David B's art. Not that I've read many graphic novels, but it's the best I've seen so far. The way he interprets and represents specific scenes and characters is beautiful and creative. Sometimes it's as simple as always drawing a particular character with a cat's face because as a child he thought the man resembled a cat. In one scene, onlookers are shown with grotesquely oversized eyes as they stare at Jean-Christophe while he seizures in the street. And one of my favourite techniques is the use of a dragonesque monster that eventually almost never leaves Jean-Christophe's side, representing the epilepsy, of course.

(Cross-posted at the Graphic Novel Challenge blog)


Sandra said...

I love those kind of coincidences, they happen regularly to me. I don't like graphic fiction but I enjoyed your review very much. That's quite the subject for that form, but I suppose there are no limits on that any more. Sounds like it could have been a really good book with some editing. I'd read a regular book on that subject.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Those are wonderful drawings! So imaginative. I think they tell a story on their own, without the narrative.

John Mutford said...

Sandra: Based on all the great reviews I've read, plenty would say not to edit it, but leave it as it.

Barbara: Definitely! In fact, it probably took me longer to read this graphic novel than the others I've read, simply because I found myself so caught up in the pictures.

Teena in Toronto said...

Sounds like an interesting book. If it's "tedious", I doubt I would have gotten through it.

I just finished #16:

Take care!

Dale said...

I'm in the middle of a bunch of small coincidences myself.

I'm glad you liked the book and I agree that the artwork completely rescues some of the more repetitive parts. I believe when it was released originally, it was in two parts so that may have had something to do with the pacing?