on 4 June 2009
Why City of Glass? Well, from what I've read about this project, it was formed all those years ago (1994!) under the aegis of a Mr Art Spiegleman (if you don't know, you'll never know) to take on a comic strip adaption of Paul Auster's novel of the same name...a notoriously non-visual, cerebral novel....certainly not movie adaption material (as Spiegleman notes in his introduction, it was related to him by Auster himself that attempts had been made to turn the novel into a workable screenplay, but they had all failed, DISMALLY).
Yet somehow it was done. Somehow, two of the best analytical brains in US comics (and one of the best graphic artists !) managed to succeed where others had failed. I don't know how they did it, and whilst part of me would like to know, there's another part of me that thinks the mystique is all so apposite...delicious!
If you want a cerebral "graphic narrative" you're in the right place. There remains something impenetrable at the core of City of Glass (I'm still struggling through Don Quixote-the parallels are fairly exquisite)-some inherent mystery that can never be decoded no matter how many times you return to the book.
I must confess that i came to this glorious tome as a Mazzucchelli fan, not an Auster fan, although I have read a couple of his books (including the source novel) so I can say that this truly enriches his ouvre, adds to it in ways which Auster himself could surely not have imagined.
So, to the glorious Mazzucchelli art, then....I encapsulated it pretty well there, I think-GLORIOUS. Whilst the style displayed bears a passing resemblance to his more well-known Batman: Year One linework Mazzuchelli has evolved in leaps and bounds, a truly restless, questing artist...indeed as I write I gingerly await the arrival of what promises to be his magnum opus, Asterios Polyp, but that, as they say, is another story...!
Mazzucchelli's drawings here are functional, cartoony, even-restricting himself to the "standard" 9-panel grid layout seems to entice a rigour from the cartoonist, a formality, which I would like to see him explore further...what we have in City Of Glass is a Comic Artist FULLY coming to terms, and getting to grips with, the NARRATIVE possibilities of his chosen medium, and for that reason alone I think that the importance of this work cannot be overstated...Mazzuchelli's line is rugged, it feels spontaeneous and marries in nicely with the "baseline style" the artist has referred to himself utilising for this stunning piece.
I gather that the novel was "broken-down", "layed-out", whatever you want to call it, by Paul Karasik. Karasik is not known as a draftsman. What he does posess, however, is a keen sense of how to wring the upmost permutations of a given story out of a page, a panel. To City Of Glass he has bought a scalpel-keen incisiveness which pares away the graphically extraneous to boil down the grid into it's barest iconographic essence-clean, easily-deciphered compositions where before (in the novel) existed pure, almost philosophical, fairytale-like storytelling dealing with pretty complex ideas:the nature of fiction as document, the nature and mutability of identity, the falsehoods of narrative...Karasik's "graphic fingerprints" are maybe not as visible to the naked eye as Mazzuchelli's but are no less effective for that...they both deserve equal credit.
I have thrown away my copy of the novel.
I no longer need it.
(No disrespect to Paul Auster intended.)
With this book, Karasik and Mazzuchelli have produced a beautiful example of how a almost-seamless synergy between words and pictures can be achieved. A beautiful marriage.
I can't praise "City Of Glass:the graphic novel any higher.