by David Mazzucchelli
Pantheon, 2009, $29.95
On my friend Dave Cawley's recommendation, I recently read Asterios Polyp, the first solo graphic novel by David Mazzucchelli (who previously illustrated a number of graphic novels, including his outstanding adaptation of Paul Auster's City of Glass and Frank Miller's Batman: Year One), and I'm glad I did. With the exception of his extremist negative views on Godzilla vs. Hedorah (a cinematic revelation, imho) and cilantro (a taste sensation, imho), Dave is always spot on with his recommendations - especially when it comes to comics and manga - and this was no exception.
In his New York magazine review "Comics Relief," Dan Kios observes that Mazzucchelli's masterpiece about a "paper tiger" architect (none of his designs have ever been built) of renown's fall from grace, ignominious rebirth and eventual redemption was 10 years in the making - and that the effort shows in the end result: "What's best about Asterios Polyp is that it succeeds so wildly at being what it is: a great graphic novel. Mazzucchelli doesn't seem worried about competing with "real" literature. Nor does the book read, as so many contemporary graphic novels do, like a treatment for a future movie deal. Mazzucchelli is still a cartoonist's cartoonist, and Asterios Polyp - maybe even more than its predecessor [City of Glass] - is a cartoonist's masterpiece."
By the way, Asterios Polyp is the name of the Greek-American architect and not a medical disorder. Amidst the narrative arc Mazzucchelli gets in his wry observations of East Coast elistists and academe, Midwest working class proles, New Age mysticism, as well as the pretentions of the art and music communities. And, thanks to Asterios' wife Hana being Japanese, we also get a nice riff on Eastern cultural values (not to mention May-December romances and marriages).
But what I liked best about Mazzucchelli's graphic novel was its philosophical observations, like this rumination on time and memory that (if my memory serves me well) will stick with me through time.
"To live is to exist within a conception of time.
But to remember is to vacate the very notion of time."
"The more something is remembered,
the more the brain has a chance to refine
the original experience, because every
memory is a re-creation, not a playback."