Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Graphic Canon Collection, Volume I

I have been intrigued by this collection of the literary canon in one, graphic collection, but it is pretty expensive, so it took me a while to break down and buy them. Now that I have, I am really glad I did. Oddly, I was a little disappointed when they first came. Each story has its own style and adaption according to the creator/illustrator/author who adapted that story, either abridged, or in part. Some were incredibly minimalistic, and I wasn't sure I liked that, so it took me a while of pouring through them to see that this was pure genius. 

Volume one starts with Gilgamesh and ends with Dangerous Liaisons. This is the antiquities portion of this series. Some, like Gilgamesh, are written in cartoon-style graphics. Others, like The Odyssey are truly illustrated. Each story is presented differently. For instance, The Odyssey is the piece of the epic poem about Polyphemus. The Sappho entry is a poem within one illustration. Medea is more of your graphic novel kind of illustrations. Some, like Lysistrata or The Flea, contain the kind of illustrations necessary for a story with sexual content, which I have seen some people complain about. I am not sure why reading about the naughty bits is OK, but the minute they are illustrated people get all up in arms, but I didn't think it was anything egregious or gratuitous. It was just the story as it was told! Some entries were all beautiful artwork and no words, like Plato's Symposium

There were excerpts from the Hebrew Bible, Confucius, the Aeneid, The New Testament, Beowulf, etc. Beowulf is pretty amazing, and it does an amazing job at creepy without a single word used! I absolutely LOVED the illustrated poems by Rumi, and they were all so different, unique and beautiful. Some I just wasn't thrilled by, like The Divine Comedy or The Canterbury Tales, but overall, I loved the collection. 

Obviously I wasn't familiar with everything in the book (I am pathetically neglectful of my knowledge in ancient Asian text), but I was impressed with the breadth of the literature represented in this collection. You have everything from the usuals to the Popol Vuh. Some even made me want to seek out the originals I wasn't familiar with, like The Visions of St Teresa of Avila. Absolutely beautiful. There is Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, and everyone else who should represent this end of the chronological canon. 

The best part of this series is the little blurb before each excerpt. There is a brief explanation of the original text that might contain historical references, its discovery, the relevance of the excerpt, and the author's biographical information. Some contain the adaptor's reasons for their choices, which I also found fascinating. The coolest function for having this in a library or classroom would be to reach kids and encourage them to read literature they would never otherwise choose on their own. Maybe if they were intrigued by the graphic Lysistrata, they will do a little digging and find the story a tale they never thought would exist in the antiquities!

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