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Monday, January 20, 2014

Hagio, Moto  A Drunken Dream and other Stories.  Seattle:  Fantagraphics

Okay, so I confess, I don't usually cover manga style graphic novels for the blog.  It is not that I am incapable of reading right to left, or that I have some deeply held prejudice against Asian art.  Actually, the real reason is that I feel inadequate.  It is pretty much impossible for me to keep up with regular graphic novels already, and when I see the manga section in a bookstore, my heart sinks, because I know I could start reading now and never catch up.  So I apologize for my shortcomings -- but every now and then I get a strong recommendation or two and I give it a try.  So listen up, Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream and other Stories is the best example I have ever seen of writing short stories within a graphic novel format. 

Oh, sure, Will Eisner's A Contract with God is a classic and it does a great job of presenting gritty realism in an urban setting.  But Moto's work is beautiful and weird and lyrical and gripping and magical.

I can't do justice to any story with my description, but I'll try to give you a taste.  My favorite story was Iguana Girl.  A woman gives birth to a daughter, but when she is first shown the child, she sees her as an overgrown iguana.  Her husband, the nurses, and everyone else see a normal human baby, but the mother is horrified.  When a second baby is born normal, poor Rika (the iguana girl) begins to suffer neglect and hatred form her mother.  There is a satisfying and somewhat redemptive ending. 

Not all the stories are that odd.  Many are stories of people trying to understand and love each other.  This would work well in a high school literature class -- particularly for AP English I think.  But is also just a really good read.

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