Saturday, September 05, 2009

Stitches by David Small

Stitches by David Small is yet another graphic memoir about a boy who has a surgery that leaves him unable to speak. That Small has told his story visually adds a layer of meaning to his experience that a traditional memoir could not have managed. That he manages to create a literary graphic memoir is remarkable. Visually, the tone of the text is established early, as the surreal angles and images are softened through washes of grey-tones and sharp black and white.

The story Small shares is sad and visually relentless. There are not a lot of words. There do not have to be. In a home where silence simmered beneath the surface, the reader is forced to experience the sadness through the images as deeply as could occur through the speech of the people who move through this boy's life. His mother and father are brutally portrayed, grotesque caricatures of parents, while his brother remains a minor, enigmatic presence.

How Small copes through the silent rage is poignant and his triumph is clear from the beginning; he finds a remarkable voice in his art which conveys the conflict of his feelings in the face of confessions—both intentional and coincidental. In so many ways, the individual players in this family drama are doomed, another facet of the story that is told most clearly through Small’s drawing style. What I loved most about this graphic memoir is the sheer poetry of the visuals. So many of the pages are overflowing with drawings that evoke the type of emotions poets try to define through a line. This book is a poem, a memoir, a visual nightmare. It is stunning, in the purest meaning of that word as I was left silenced, sighing in perfect contentment.

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