Wednesday, December 18, 2013

For Thursday: Small's Stitches: "Drawing Well Is The Best Revenge"


For Thursday, be sure to read and respond to Small's Stitches (2009), a relatively recent work that shows how well-suited the graphic novel medium is to the genres of memoir and autobiography.  Note also how visual the work is, using words very economically.  It's a very 'moody' work, much darker than Maus (despite its subject matter!), though similar in its depiction of the family dynamic and one boy's struggle to understand who he is in relation to where he comes from.  Stitches also explores family history, and how the past continues to linger into the present, despite the rapid changes of the 20th century.

I've pasted the link to an interview with Small below, where he states, quite interestingly, that "I wrote out almost every scene in Stitches before I drew it. It was the only way I could begin. Only language brings order to the chaos of memory. I have boxes full of manuscript—embarrassingly bad, I’m sure—which helped me grope my way toward a coherent shape for my book."  So despite the visual nature of the book, it began as words--he had to write it before he could 'see' it.  Read more here:
http://www.smithmag.net/memoirville/2009/10/06/interview-david-small-author-of-stitches/


15 comments:

  1. Illustration
    The illustrations for stitches are essentially gray water color paintings. Each page is executed perfectly, some being full of information and detail, or oddly blank. The artwork pieces together a story that really speaks more than what words alone could express. For instance there is a page that is just white with what appears to be a puff of smoke in the page. An entire page dedicated to expressing the emotion of emptiness is very profound and worked so effectively here.
    -Cody Soden

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  2. One of my favorite scenes from the novel is on pages 250 through 255, where Small encounters his therapist for the first time. I thought Small’s decision to depict his therapist as the White Rabbit was a brilliant continuation of his childhood fantasy about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Small comes to see his therapist as the only person who truly cares about him, as someone who tells him the truth in a world full of lies. He leads Small into a new world, just as the White Rabbit leads Alice into Wonderland. I also think the dialogue in these scenes is very revealing. There is a very small chance that Small’s therapist actually said the words, “Your mother doesn't love you.” Instead, I think this is a very stark and emotional way to say that having his therapist treat him as something other than a burden made him realize just how selfish and uncaring his mother was.

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  3. The artwork in “Stitches” could be classified as a cross between sketchy and artistic. The wide shots of most of the frames adds to the loneliness feeling that I believe Small was trying to go for. The tone is definitely loneliness, confusion, as well as heartache. The way the frames seem to pan forward, step by step, to the scene sucks the reader in and allows us to feel as if we are present; a fly on the wall. Most of the frames leave the reader alone with Small in the quiet company of a child which causes the story to feel personal with the reader.

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  4. 2. To be frank, this was written as a graphic novel since there is not much of a story to begin with, or that is the way he had told it. With his writing style, his story would have lasted at most to be forty pages, far from a normal length novel today. He needed it to be a graphic novel in order to fill up pages and to put people within his childhood since he could no other way….. Though, he fell kind of short here too. He did not bring the reader in to experience what he felt. Instead, he gives quick flashbacks rather than delve deep within his conscious to tell readers why he thought the way he did. Why was he so attached to Lolita? He needs to tell, give some hint, or explain that even though it was an adult novel glorifying pedophilia, that would explain what made him love Lolita so much and how he fell in love with it. Basically, this book is mostly meant to shock the reader with flashes of pain and shame from experiments and crummy caretakers.

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  5. This work is sketchy in a childish way. The drawings are very childish, as if a kid around the same age of the character had drawn it. It's very sketchy and simplistic. It's expressive, but at the same time not detailed. I think this sort of illustration style works, because the main character is a child, and it seems as if it were his own drawings. It fits the feeling of the story, and adds to the tone of a child’s voice that is needed for the overall affect. This type of illustration is uniquely suited to the story it's trying to tell. These childish sketches, yet detailed expressions allow for the reader identify more with the point of view of a child, specifically the child telling the story.

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  6. 4. Page 39 is an influential set up for the story. In it David encounters the little man in the jar on the forbidden fourth floor. David first sees many jars from across the room, but he zeroes in on this one. In the final two frames we actually see David’s eye and the little man’s eye placed side by side in a way that makes them look as if they are from the same face. This juxtaposition is used to illuminate the metaphor that David is also a little man in a jar. He lives inside a quite world where he is given very little freedom and the many languages of his house are used to communicate nothing. Just going to see the little man is breaking the rules for David. He is so terrified by the little man though that he runs away, which mirrors how he runs away from home at 16.

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  7. The frames on page 40 and 41 show an important moment, although small to the story, he does come back to this place as a grown person. This moment he sees the fetus get its self out of the jar his imagination takes complete control and scares him back into the elevator. I believe he feels like the fetus in the jar because of how his farther is always experimenting with him. I do not admire this passage of images because of what is in the frames but it does have a foreshadowing affect.

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  8. The story was told in a graphic novel because you probably wouldn’t get the sense of loneliness or emptiness that comes with the graphic novel. Also you may not be able to see or imagine his family as this horrible monstrous people they appear to be in the book. Also the book jumps from memories that are placed in real time to his imagination or his view of what’s going on. A movie or a book might be able to do this but, not as often as it is in the book and not without it looking to weird and confusing.

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  9. Lisa Edge 4. Describe one scene in the novel; either a single frame or a single of frames that you feel is particularly significant. Why is this moment so important? Do you admire this passage more for its narrative (the words) or its art (the images)—or both? Make sure we can not only see what’s going on here, but we see how it relates to the story at large. Page 38-43…Where he finds the baby in the jar….his clear inability to comprehend or understand and his fear is so vivid through the illustrations. As a child this kind of fear is so terrifying it’s almost as if we cannot get away fast enough and when we finally do (once he is in the elevator) we have that “Whew moment where we take in a sigh of relief because we…COULD OF DIED (LOL)! Then once found directly afterwards the ridiculed as he was and his sheer defiance was soooo… characteristic of childhood.

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  10. 1. The illustrations in this comic are gray, very shaded with sketchiness in the drawings. This comic is mainly illustrations which speak more volume then words could. Each from with little or no words lets us get into the emotion of the story and the characters. Each frame portrays this sense on loneliness emotion in the boy since he had suffered from not only two surgeries to find pout later own his own he actually had cancer but his avoided to tell him which only made him more lonely.

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  11. 2. This story was written as a graphic novel because the author always used art and pictures to escape. The story may lose some of insight into David’s world if it were written as a novel. This format allows us to see and interpret his emotions and feel them rather than just read what he wants us to feel. The comic book format also lets us see how he remembers things as a child, the images and things he remembered that were important.

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  12. here is one scene in the novel that I feel is one of the most important because I feel like it shows that David's interpretations of the world and people's thoughts and feelings aren't accurate and that is when David is in the hospital. His mother asks him if there is anything that she can get him and David says that he wants the book she burned. His mother leaves angrily and then returns and brings him the book. She tells him that they had a copy of the book in the gift shop but considering that they're in a hospital, I feel like it is extremely unlikely that that was the case. Given that it doesn't seem likely that a hospital would be selling Lolita novels, and the fact that we later learn that the mother is in a relationship with another woman, I have to seriously question how reliable David is in this moment, since it seems more likely that the mother never burned the book and instead she kept the book for herself - of course this is all speculation but it definitely seems more logical than a hospital gift shop selling child-pornography. . .

    - Mello

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  13. This is hard for me to pick one scene. There were a lot of frames that stood out to me mainly just close ups of faces. The one of his grandma at the bottom of page 79 really stood out. It was foreshadowing that later in the story she was going to snap. I knew right then that something was wrong with her. The actual scene that stuck with me was on page 204 and 205 when he found out that he had cancer. Throughout the story we knew he wasn’t happy with his family life and after that moment when he found out, it made me lose respect for his parents even more, because they hid that from him. I think him finding out about it just added more emotion for the audience to feel. The close up of his eyes added to this scene. Especially the last box, he did a good job at showing all the emotions in his eyes, such as pain, confusion, and sadness.

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  14. Stitches works best as a graphic novel because as a comic, it creates a personal connection with the artistic main character of the story. His imagination is effectively revealed throughout the frames of the graphic novel, and in any other format it would be difficult. The scene from pages 251-267 is exemplary: we know the therapist is not really a rabbit, the various close-ups all convey the progression of deep emotion, and the boy's infinite sadness is beautifully illustrated through the rain. None of these qualities would translate sensibly in any other format. If made into a novel, the specifics of his dreams and day-dreams could easily be translated in a way not intended by the author, and the wordiness of the descriptions would eliminate the sense of his silent internal world. As a film, the amount of silence required for the same effect of the graphic novel would be unrealistic, and the viewer could not have time to fully understand the dynamics within the quiet.

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  15. The graphic novel Stitches is illustrated in a sketchy manner. The entire work lacks all color. It is made up of black and white images. The illustrator shows emotion by using shading and shadows. The drawings are very dark and simple which are reflective of the sad and lonely story. The illustrations seem to match the words exactly. The reader can almost see the narrator’s pain.
    Karnesa McGaha

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