Asterios_polyp

My great intentions to read more widely include two categories I read pitifully little of last year: graphic novels and poetry. Thanks to Dan Wagstaff’s recommendation  my first graphic novel of the year is one helluva good one. In fact, it’s one of the best things I’ve read in a while period.

 

The title character, Asterios Polyp, lives alone in his shambolic apartment, drinking and watching porn until lightning strikes his building and burns it down. He leaves with nothing but a watch, a zippo lighter and a swiss army knife, and buys a bus ticket as far as he can go. When he arrives in a small, nondescript town, he takes a job as an auto mechanic, and his affable boss includes room and board in the arrangement. As Asterios embarks on his new life, in flashbacks we learn that he was a tenured professor and award-winning architect (although none of his designs have ever been built). We witness him meet his wife and fall in love. I love how a few pages of graphics perfectly capture the intimacy and familiarity of marriage; a few more pages convey the sorrow when it comes to an end.

 

Rich in symbolism, weighty in subject manner, the novel tackles an awful lot: philosophy, religion, marriage, art, the meaning of life, and the fragility of life. I’m sure it will benefit greatly from a second and even third reading (it’s going to get at least a second reading from me, that’s for sure). I suspect there’s a lot I missed the first time—so much is being said beyond the text and images, in Mazzuchhellli’s use of colour and layout. Each decision has meaning; each nuance I’m eager to explore.

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