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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice try but no cigar, 25 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style (Paperback)
A comic book that ranges across a largely redundant exercise in style. A man gets up from his desk, closing his laptop and walks into his living room. There is a spiral staircase through which he hears his girlfriend calling to ask the time. He responds with the time - 1:15. He crosses to the kitchen, goes in and opens the fridge door. He stands there for a moment, unable to remember what he came into the kitchen for.

That's the whole story, and Matt Madden ranges through 99 other ways of telling the same story. Many of them are drawn with wonderful inspiration - my favourite being the Krazy & Ignatz version Esk Her Size end Style (exercise in style) - five all too brief panels during which Krazy Kat gets his customary brick to the head - cue heart floating above him - there is nothing he loves more, but then along comes the jailer to put his `sweetheart' mouse in jail. If you haven't seen the original Krazy & Ignatz comics (by George Herriman), it won't compute. As a play on the business of style it is beautifully redolent of the original comics which only became popular after he stopped drawing them. Furthermore, this version of the story has very little in common with the original.

It's all down to Raymond Queneau (b.1903, d.1973), an intellectual who founded the Ouvroir de litterature potentielle (otherwise known as Oulipo). One of Queneau's most influential works is Exercises In Style, which tells the simple story of a man who sees the same stranger twice in one day. It tells that short story in 99 different ways, demonstrating the tremendous variety of styles in which storytelling can take place. This book is Matt Madden's graphical story adaptation of the book's concept. It works well in some contexts, especially the Underground Comix version, which cleverly reworks the story as that of a hippy, but it doesn't quite have the punch of the written versions, which used rhetorical tricks and terms such as metaphor, negatives, anagrams, Alexandrines, comedy, philosophy, etc. Madden has to work within the comic book ouevre, which has far fewer tropes that can be worked as different styles, and was, anyway linguistically based.
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Location: Leeds, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 676