Loz (blahflowers) wrote,
Loz
blahflowers

'The Encyclopedia of Early Earth', 'Blue is the Warmest Color' & 'Lighter Than My Shadow'



The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg. This is a book that wants to be charming but unfortunately ended up coming out as really bloody irritating. Set in the faux prehistory of the Earth in a similar kind of way to the 'Just So Stories' it's the tale of a boy from the North Pole who travels southward searching for the missing piece of his soul. On his way he has run-ins with several cultures, okay, two, where to survive he must tell them stories and he gets to hear some of theirs. Meanwhile in the heavens the Eagle God and his children watch down over all. The artwork is okay, tending towards the deliberately simple rather than realistic with a reduced colour palette that works to great effect. It's just that the story, or stories, are so bland. I don't know whether this book is deliberately retelling creation stories from somewhere else but if Greenberg came up with them herself then her imagination is extremely derivative. We have 'Jonah and the Whale' , we have 'generic tale when someone uses their intelligence to outwit a stronger foe #4237' , and at the end, when the boy from the North reaches the South Pole and finds a woman to be his soulmate we have that old favourite 'Gods being dicks for no good reason' and the fifty or sixty years that our couple spend living together is condensed down to one page because heaven forbid that anything interesting should be allowed to take up space.



I would recommend Infinite Spheres review of the film of 'Blue is the Warmest Color' by Julie Maroh. I've not seen it and their review addresses the main reasons I had on reading about it. The book avoids the big concern I had, and which Maroh herself brought up in interviews, that the film is exploitative porn for straight people, well, guys. There is one big sex scene (and a few smaller ones) but it's strictly of the 'all the nipples and then strategically placed word balloons' variety. The book starts with Emma visiting the parents of her recently deceased partner Clementine, yes it's a bury your gays story! Clem has left Emma her diaries and she, and we, get to read the story of the two and a bit years between Clem's sexual awakening and the two of them being banished from Clem's parents house for being lesbians. It's been a while since I've watched or read any teenage fiction but that seems to be the genre that this story is aiming for more than the male gaze. Clem think she likes boys but then there's this one girl she sees for all of twenty seconds and then we're into the full on can't get her out of my head-oh my god I can't be gay could I?-Why can't I pluck up the courage to tell her how I feel-now my former best friend is a homophobic bitch-now her girlfriend is a bitch as well-teenage Dawsons Creek angst-fest. So it's about ninety pages of this, then sex, then seventy pages of fallout. I want to like this story more than I do. Although it's set in the mid-nineties it was written a couple of years ago and feels terribly old-fashioned. The main reason I took against 'The Encyclopaedia of Early Earth' was that it's a children's story masquerading as an adult story, 'Blue is the Warmest Color' is a teenage story pretending to be an adult story and quite a retrogressive one too. The last thirty pages are set in modern times, after eleven years together Emma throws Clementine out of her flat after discovering that she's had an affair with a man. Friends prevail on Emma to see Clem but before they can properly discuss what happened Clem has a heart attack and before you can say 'undiagnosed heart condition' and 'weeks to live' it turns out that both those things are the case and she's gone. It's up there with when Beth Jordache was written out of 'Brookside'.

The artwork is beautiful, with a great use of colour. The present day is watercoloured while in the past it's all in delicate shades of grey except for things that are blue, Clem's diary, a child's balloon, Emma's hair and eyes. As a way of symbolising how 'they' stand out whenever you see 'the one' it's simple and effective. It's worth a read certainly, if it wasn't for what I think is a death put in only because Maroh couldn't think of a better way to finish off the story I'd even recommend it to teenage girls of an inquisitive nature. Bisexuality is ignored naturally, but seeing as Clem cheats on Emma with a guy that's probably for the best.



I put off reading 'Lighter Than My Shadow' by Katie Green till last in my pile of books because it's huge! Over five hundred pages! I don't think I've seen any graphic novels even approaching this size that weren't collections like Jeff Smith's complete 'Bone'. It's the story of Katie's teenage years when she suffered first from anorexia and then later from binge eating. As a child she was picky with her food but as she reaches puberty it becomes more serious which Katie visualises as her shadow rising up to surround and penetrate her. Slowly she cuts down on everything but the bare essentials of what she needs to eat to survive, and then she starts cutting down on that too. Katie uses the comics medium to brilliantly illustrate the metaphors, a skeletal Katie sits at the dinner table and she starts to blow up like a balloon just trying to eat a small plate of vegetables. Some days she succeeds and the cloud lifts, other days it envelops her totally. When her family turn to alternative therapies in an attempt to help her she starts working with someone who claims he helps people whose energy gets 'stuck' in their body. It initially seems to work but when Katie goes to university and realises he's been using this patter as a way to cover his abusing the women that come to him for help it tips her into another downward spiral. The cloud comes back but now she has a mouth in her belly that needs feeding. She feels she can't help herself, eating her food and even that of her flatmates until all she can do is feel guilty afterwards, lying in bed imagining her massively distended stomach. With a therapist she gets not full control but a measure, learning not to use one failure as an excuse to do herself more harm.

Greens artwork is lovely, clear unfussy lines that effectively tell the story and communicate her mind state. And while it's monochrome that simply allows her to use black and white pages to more startling effect. I read this book quickly but that's not to say it's a simplistic story, it's a complicated one but it's very well told.


The TL:DR version? Read 'Lighter Than My Shadow', possibly read 'Blue is the Warmest Color', avoid 'The Encyclopedia of Early Earth'.

This entry was originally posted at http://blahflowers.dreamwidth.org/646482.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Tags: comics, reviews
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