Swallow Me Whole Weekly Round Up

So, as we all know, we only had one class period to discuss this really dense book.  While we got a fair amount of stuff covered in class, we also have a lot of material that we didn’t get a chance to discuss.

For one, we never got as in depth with the subject of the Schizophrenia as I would have liked.  The Wizard, the Cicadas, and the little Pill-Monster were obviously embodiments of each characters mental illness, but it would be interesting to find out if there was any sort of significance to them.  We discussed how the little Pill-Monster might have been the Grandmother’s disease triggering Ruth’s illness, or possibly representative of the ineffective medications that they were taking.  The Wizard and the Cicadas never really came up though, so it will be interesting if anyone has anything to say about them next Tuesday.

The other big thing that we didn’t really get to was the end of the book.  The ending was very confusing as to what was actually happening.  I doubt that Ruth was actually buried by a swarm of Cicadas, and personally think it was representative of her disease overtaking her.  But it gets really weird after that section because it appears that she actually has died as evidenced by Peri and her boyfriend digging through piles of dead bugs and her parents seemingly identifying a body based on a picture.  Peri then seems to slip into Ruth’s world, and ends up in the same realm with Ruth and the Grandmother.  This could be taken as his succumbing to his disease, or possibly dying, or some other equally valid interpretation.  In any event, that was a pretty awesome way to end the book… even if it was really weird.

Viewpoints of Fun Home

The subject matter in Fun Home was definitely not what I had expected from the title or the cover.  I would have guessed from the book cover that this was a story about a kind of hilariously dysfunctional family with the narrator being the one cliche misunderstood voice of sanity.  This story seemed to be 7 chapters of the same exact story told a little bit differently each time.

Each story was told in a past tense voice, and involved the narrator’s struggle with her identity, and with her relationship with her father.  The 1st few stories gave a really harsh portrayal of her father.  He seems to be very short tempered and abusive towards the children.  He also seems very withdrawn and emotionless most of the time.  Later on, especially in the last chapters, the father seems to be very connected with her and they seem to have a genuine appreciation for each other.

I also noticed that there were several stories being told all at once.  There was the diary, which was mostly in chronological order.  There was the childhood tale where she was actually growing up in the home.  There was the college story, which was sort of mixed up chronologically.  There was the story of her evolving relationship with her father, which I assumed was the main story.  And there were a lot of little anecdotes like the father getting stuck in the mud, or the bulldyke scene that were thrown into the mix.  This made the story a little hard to follow timewise, but (in my opinion) was effective at showing milestones in her relationship with her father.

The Animals of Maus

We talked in class several times about the use of animals to represent people.  I think the use of Spiegelman’s use of animals to represent different ethnicities actually helps to clarify his story.  I think that since many of us grew up watching cartoons or disney movies, we are pretty used to the idea of people being represented as animals.  My guess is that even the older generations of people have seen enough mickey mouse or other similar characters that even they would be used to the idea of personified animals.

It also makes sense from the artists viewpoint that he might choose to represent the different ethnicities as different animals.  When we look at how small the panels are in the book, there wasn’t a lot of room for detail.  He could have made the drawings larger, and added photorealistic imagery to the pictures and later shrunk them down, but we still wouldn’t immediately know who was polish, german, swiss, american, etc.  Plus, how exactly does one try to capture their dead parents’ images accurately in so many different frames?  The minimalistic representation of the people as animals also helps show that different cultures might view all members of one race as the same.

I would guess that using cartoon charicters to portray people also helped to take the edge off of the story.  Speigalman was obviously trying to tell the story as accurately as possible… but since the closest he could get is second or third hand accounts of the story it makes sense that the story is missing lots of small detail and can only be represented by generalizing things like ethnicities or accounts of what happened.

Possible WE3 Movie

This interview by G4 was posted June, 19 2009.  Blair Butler, host of “Fresh Ink,” interviews Frank Morrison at Meltdown Comic Store in California.  He talks about how he is writing a screenplay to turn WE3 into a movie.  He seems really enthusiastic about the movie, and thinks that turning WE3 into a movie will actually make the story stronger and will make it a lot sadder.  He also point out that he could add a lot more to the movie that he couldn’t necessarily fit into the comic book.  I know that in class that we pointed out how the story didn’t seem that sad, or how there was a lot of missing information from the beginning of the story.  Morrison seems to almost agree with our in-class analysis and thinks that his new screenplay should address these issues.

Weekly Roundup 2/18/11

There were several interesting points that were brought up during the discussions of Nat Turner.

First, there was the use of outside imagery.  Someone pointed out that one of the images from before the slave revolt was actually a metal etching from the Granger Collection of Art.  It was interesting to see that Kyle Baker had chosen to use this image as the basis for his interpretation of the image of Nat Turner.  We also noticed that there were several images that were taken from actual photographs, like the pictures of houses at the tops of the pages or some of the real background images with pictures drawn over the top of them.  This may have added a sense of reality to a semi-accurate account of an actual slave revolt.

Second, there were issues of heroism throughout the course of the novel.  We discussed that Kyle Baker seemed to justify Nat Turners actions by mirroring action from the white community.  For example, a black baby was killed on the voyage to America, and one was killed during the slave revolt.  These types of actions occurred several times and were perpetrated by both whites and blacks throughout the course of the novel.  It seemed to be more of an eye-for-an-eye story rather than glorifying Nat Turner’s actions.  This is seen again at the end of the novel where Nat is lynched.  From the non-white perspective, he is shown with beams of heavenly light shining down upon him.  But from the whites’ perspective, he is seen as somewhat grotesquely hanging from the tree with no light.

Third, we had the issue of knowledge as power, or as a weapon.  As someone pointed out during their presentation, images of books and weapons were both illuminated throughout the book.  Also, as Nat Turner learns to read, he gets the idea that he is some sort of Messiah for the slaves and that he will free his people through bloodshed.  Ultimately, this leads to the slave rebellion and knowledge leads to violence.

God’s Man

It was interesting to me how the characters were represented using expressionism, like what was discussed in chapter 5 of the McCloud reading.  The images were surreal, and lacked the perfect real world representation of form and function of the impressionistic era.  This departure from realism still left me with a clear sense of what was going on, and perhaps would probably seem clearer to me than an impressionist approach.

Expressionism allows the bad guys to instantly be seen as malevolent without the use of words.  Overly embellished featured of certain characters effectively made some of them look evil or untrustworthy without having to tell me that with words.  Because people’s looks rarely reflect their true nature, and an impressionistic approach may have made it difficult to portray one’s inner evil without the assistance of written text.

I think God’s Man was the first time that I had ever tried to read something with no words.  Quite frankly, I was pretty confused for the first couple chapters and had to go back and reread it a few times to get the most out of the work.  I found myself trying to read the scrolls with “words” on them to get a better idea of what was going on, but then realized that they were merely representations of words rather than written text.  While this was a pretty cool novel, I’m pretty sure that I will not be referencing anything from this book for the tracing project later in this semester.