Thursday, August 19, 2010

Reader's Diary #640- Daniel Clowes: Ghost World (Special Edition)

A while ago the good people over at Sporcle decided to publish one of my quizzes: the top ten best graphic novels according to Time Magazine. Since I only jumped into graphic novels last year, I'd been considering using the list as a good jumping off point. However, based on some of the comments, the Time list leaves much to be desired. Still, Daniel Clowes guest starred on the Simpsons alongside Art Spiegelman and Alan Moore, both of whom are also on the Time list. Like all top ten lists, the Time list is subjective and has its share of supporters and detractors. Still, I like such lists as conversation starters and I'll stick with this one for now, picking through it and making my own opinions.

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes is not exactly action paced. Basically it's just two girls at the edge of adulthood. On the plus side, I think Clowes perfectly captured a typical 90s teenage experience. The 90s, I think, had so much potential for teens. Couldn't fit in? You could simply redefine cool. The mainstream was bad, right? Alternative was where it was at. Great. Except eventually everything self-imploded under the weight of all that cynicism and self-righteousness.
Sad, yes, but it could make for interesting literature. Implosions are fascinating, after all.

Unfortunately, I thought Clowes' book was more of a tiny slip than an implosion. Yes the friendship between Enid and Rebecca hits a bump, but it's minor. There are some romantic issues, but to call it tension is pushing it. It's as if Clowes spent half his time writing dialogue for realistic teens, albeit the slightly confused, slightly unhappy teens, the other half working on the artwork, which is stellar, but left no time for a real plot.

Then there's the screenplay. I've not seen the movie, nor did I even know it was a movie until I bought the book. However, it starred Thora Birch, Scarlet Johansson, and Steve Buschemi and it was Oscar nominated for the best adapted screenplay. Apparently I lived under a rock in 2001. But one of the extras in this "special edition" was the screenplay and I thought it was a pretty cool extra, especially as I've never read a screenplay before.

One thing I noticed was how quickly the story veered from the story of the original. Adapted by Clowes and director Terry Zwigoff, I preferred the screenplay to the comic. There's far more of a plot, even though much of it revolves around a character (Buscemi's Seymour) not even in the book. And for those who thought Rebecca was underused in the book must have been furious with the movie. From the screenplay it looks as if she really got ignored this time around. The movie poster shows Johansson and Birch though, so maybe it didn't feel that way. Did you see it? In any case, I was just happy to finally have a plot to sink my teeth into.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I didn't realise that the film differs so much from the graphic novel. No Steve Buschemi character? Scandalous!

I've not read the novel, obviously, but I can say that Rebecca did have a relatively minor role in the film. You should watch it sometime.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on the comic. This is one of those rare instances where I actually prefer (strongly prefer, in fact) the movie over the book. I thought the characters of the film were far more complex and likable than the characters in the comic. It's been a while since I read the novel but I don't remember feeling that there was any redeeming quality in any of the book's characters.