from our weekly graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:
Flannery O’Connor’s perceptive but incising fiction has captured many young intellectuals. Here is a storyteller who writes fluidly but with the sharpness of whitewater rather than a gentle stream. In bringing O’Connor’s earlier cartoon work to contemporary readers, Fantagraphics advances the case for image and text being closely related—or relatable—by a talented narrative creator. In fact, this is the sort of collection, given the artist/author, that flies into the face of “educational” critics who wag their fingers and announce doom when new sequential art narratives are published and reviewed for youth: no one ever accused O’Connor of dumbing down anything!
Beyond the fact that O’Connor’s cartoons show exactly how the imagination can be expressed visually and then expressed verbally, her personal history as an invalid is a matter of compelling interest to new readers of her. Well educated and obviously both inspired and ambitious, O’Connor did not have the opportunity to live broadly or long. And yet she not only saw acutely, she allows us to find what she saw and revel in its clarity still.
Adult/High School–Best known for her highly ironic and iconic short stories, O’Connor began her creative life when she was a preschooler; during her youth and college years she developed increasingly in the visual arts, rather than through writing. This beautifully produced retrospective of her linoleum block cartoons, along with some sketches and drawings, shows the incisive, witty and genuinely original “voice” of an excellent observer, just as her later fiction (A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Wise Blood) demonstrates. Barry Moser’s brief introduction gives readers unfamiliar with block-print techniques enough information to understand the flexible attitudes of O’Connor’s chosen printing medium, while Kelly Gerald’s essay and captioning serves as eloquent and substantive discussion of the artist’s interests as expressed in these cartoons. O’Connor’s viewpoint as a college student during the early years of World War II at an all-female Southern institution adds another layer of texture, too, for contemporary teen artists and observers of places and situations that fall outside popular media’s scope.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA