Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reader's Diary #990- David Small: Stitches

By far the most emotional wallops I've taken from books this year have come from graphic novels. I'm questioning why that is. It would seem that the non-graphic novelists I've been reading have been almost afraid of emotion, burying it beneath layers of ambiguity and symbolism, as if anything else would be overwrought or maudlin. Yet the graphic novels have tackled emotion head-on. Perhaps a large reason for this has been that a lot of the graphic novels I've been reading have been autobiographical and the writers have simply been honest.

David Small's Stitches is an almost shocking true story about a miserable childhood that left him literally speechless. I haven't remembered wanting to just hug a character this much since A Child Called It. Young David Small is just so likeable, so normal, and yet his parents are so not. Perhaps surprising, the adult Small doesn't even come across as bitter towards them. He clearly shows that he most certainly was angry with them, but it seems from a distance. Not that Small suggests that he has forgiven his parents, but it reads as if from a man who has come to terms with his less than perfect upbringing.  He hints at theories towards his parents' own unhappiness, but doesn't dwell on them except for their impact on Small's life;  how they indirectly steered him towards imagination and illustration, how it shaped his outlook on life.

The illustrations in Stitches are beautiful, revealing so much tone in the pen and gray scale ink and water, with beautiful choices of lighting and angles. He also dives occasionally into the more surrealistic perspective of the child's mind, creating a far deeper insight into the character.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I suspect that the graphic part of graphic novels contribute quite a lot to their emotional impact, where you can see expressions on faces and read body language.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: I get that, and considered that, but I think that just means a regular novelist needs to work harder at it, not avoid it or hide behind a vague wall of pseudo-symbolism.