Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Review : Watchmen by Alan Moore

I do not think my pathetic reviewing skills are going to do any justice to the Holy Grail of graphic novels but I am going to try anyway. To be honest, I was not very optimistic about this one. I never really got the “holier than thou” masked crusader concept; but Watchmen is so different. This book is not just about fancy costumes and superpowers; it’s about ethical dilemmas and complex morality. I loved how Alan Moore has explored the human psychology behind the desire to be a super hero. Unlike most of the stories of this genre, Watchmen focuses on the darker side of the heroes-their mistakes and murky pasts. Watchmen is not about a bunch of vigilantes fighting the evil and saving the world. It is about the heroes fighting their own inner monsters (and eventually saving the world).There were times, I felt sorry for them and there were times ,I felt like kicking their asses and finally I just gave up judging them. In my opinion, any book which brings out such a wide range of emotions in the reader is a great one.
                                   The alternate history approach was pretty amazing too. For a while, I actually believed that Americans had won the Vietnam War and the world leaders were really stupid enough to start a nuclear war. The “comic within a comic” idea was innovative but I have to admit that its significance was totally lost on me. (I am not very good at picking up metaphors and symbolism).The only disappointing aspect about the book is the way Alan Moore has handled the female characters. Laurie’s character did not have any depth to it and I felt she was used a sex symbol. Same goes for her mother. In a story which boasts of such amazing characters, the female personalities seemed very stereotypical.
                                                       It’s one of those books which leave you with more questions than answers .It is not an effortless read like few other graphic novels(Maus,Persepolis) but in the end ,it’s worth the time and endeavor.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Review:The complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

First Persepolis and now Maus.I am on a graphic novel spree and I must say I am finding it hard to quit. While reading these war memoirs, I have realized that when it comes to depicting the tragedies of a war, pictures speak a lot more than just words. The visual illustrations make the war seem a lot more personal and intimate.
               Maus is a survival tale of a Jewish couple (Vladek Spiegelman and his wife) in Europe during world war 2.Unlike most of Holocaust narratives, this tale has innumerable underlying layers. It is not just a story about holocaust, it’s a tale of fear and courage, of strength and weakness, of love and hate, of kindness and cruelty. I loved how Spiegelman has combined so many elements in a single story-the horrors of the holocaust, complicated dynamics of a father son relationship, the effect holocaust has had on the later generations of the survivors. The story jumps between NYC (present)and Poland(past) which makes it multidimensional. I think it is very difficult to induce humor in war stories without making light of the subject but somehow Spiegelman has pulled it off in his book.

                                          The protagonist’s survival tale can be summed up in one sentence (which I feel is the most powerful dialogue of the book)-“To die, its easy. But you have to struggle for life”. This book can surprise you even if you have read a  plethora of holocaust novels and if you haven’t ,then there is no better place to start.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Review: The Dalai Lama's Cat by David Michie

 I love books with deceptive and intriguing titles because if this book had even hinted that it was about the teachings of Buddhism, I would never have read it but now I am so glad that I did. Never before have I come across a book on spirituality that is so simple and yet is so successful in conveying a strong message to the readers in a very nonchalant manner.
         The story is an autobiography of an Himalayan cat, Snowlion a.k.a HHC (His Holiness’s cat) who has spent most of her life in the Buddhist monastery of Mcleodganj in the city of Dharamshala. In her stories, HHC tells the readers about the various tenets of Buddhism that she has learnt by observing the Dalai Lama and his staff.HHC describes how the teachings of His Holiness has benefited her in overcoming the obstacles of her life on a daily basis. The book is filled with anecdotes about various celebrities who have visited the monastery to discuss their issues with Dalai Lama. The author also paints a beautiful picture of Dharamshala. The book will definitely make you fall in love with the place.
                                              The book has the right amount of humor, it is precise and has some amazing characters. Unlike what the title may suggest, The Dalai Lama’s cat has something for everyone-the cat lovers, the dog lovers, the spiritual readers, the non - spiritual readers. I found it to be a very interesting and effortless read and I am sure you will too.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Review:The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

For a long time, I was under the impression that graphic novels and superhero comics were synonyms but after reading this phenomenal novel by Satrapi, I realized how wrong I was. I am so glad that I chose this book to introduce me to the world of graphic novels. The beauty about this form of storytelling is that the images stay with you forever.
                                                                                Persepolis is a story about a young girl (Marjane  Satrapi)who lived  in Iran during the Islamic revolution. The book lets the reader view the hypocrisies of war through the eyes of a 10 year old. As the story progresses, Marjane transitions from a precocious child to a benumbed adult and the reader realizes how difficult it is to grow up in a war torn fundamentalist country. During her childhood,Marji was always confused as to how the ruling regime would manipulate Iran’s history to suit their own propaganda. As she grew older, she started to detest the Islamic fundamentalism and tried to resist it in every possible way. Her parents sent her away to Vienna to escape the war but after four years of drugs and depression, she came back to her homeland, pursued a diploma in art, got her life in shape but ultimately left Iran and settled down in France.
                                    This story is not about the Iran war.It is also not about religion. It is about how an unstable political situation of a country can impact its youth, can take away their freedom and snatch their individuality from them. We often associate the Middle East with terrorism and oil wars but this book throws light on the day to day oppression the citizens’ face in a fundamentalist Islamic regime. At a time when Iran was fighting a never ending war with Iraq, the citizens were fighting their own battles with the compulsory veil, the no make up rule, ban on western music and movies, the empty shelves in supermarkets and the frequent bomb raids.
            Unlike most of the autobiographies, this story does not sugarcoat unpleasant events. The author is blunt and straight forward. The narration is sad,poignant,tragic and funny at the same time. The visual illustrations are black and white which suits the story. Like all graphic novels, at certain stages of the story, I found the images made a stronger point than the words. This is definitely a must read for all history and memoir lovers.