from graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:
What’s So Funny about Parody?
Artful parody, as the American journal The Onion shows readers again and again, makes us laugh for a couple of reasons: often, the parody presents a situation that is farcical on its face, and it also tickles our brains with the surprise of seeing the object of the parody in a new light. That is, one of the reasons we laugh is because we are gaining an insight that teaches us something beyond the farce.
Tom Gauld previously gave us Goliath, a retelling of the Biblical story that put the giant in a brand new light and thereby had us realizing new and unusual “truths” about the story we thought we knew: (a) the faceoff between David and Goliath was one between two human beings, not between a guileless boy and a monster; (b) being extra-sized, and even extra-strong, doesn’t mean that someone is more interested in throwing around his brawn than exercising his intellectual and/or emotional interests; and (c) that reminder all of us needs from time to time, there are always multiple points of view that can be mined in any good story.
Gauld’s latest isn’t one extended story but a collection of parodies, each one launching from a canonical text, ongoing newsworthy topic, or our everyday surroundings in the Western world. His minimalist techniques both as an artist and as a storyteller force readers into getting both the joke and the truth in one flash, while reading the whole book in a sitting is tantamount to jugging a high caffeine soda on a hot day—breathtaking and delicious and likely to set the imbiber up to run off to make smart parodies–either in ink or conversation—on his or her own.
The book’s physical layout and dimensions are such that it makes an excellent candidate for Tumblr, which means that it’s also a slick pick to show off on your library’s summer reading website through a Tumblr link.
I’m sure that could be made into a parody of artist-who-creates-old-fashioned-book-gets-featured-in-old-school-libraries-via-Tumblr. I wouldn’t be jealous if someone took that idea and, er, tumbled with it.
Adult/High School–Gauld, a cartoonist who appears frequently in The New York Times Magazine, also creates literary-inspired comics for the Guardian. The latter have been collected to fine effect in this volume, each touched up with one or two colors to highlight the black-ink images of talking eggplants, scraggly bearded kings, science labs, and headless sculptures. The size of the panels (with one story per page) and the volume’s dimensions make for an intimate reading experience, while the takeoffs, visual puns, and recastings of stories readers will think they know are sure to elicit giggles. Gauld’s pointed humor is both wise and gentle, accessible to any reader who has been introduced to the high-school language-arts and social-sciences curricula. One story offers tips of the types of characters who might improve any storyline, including pirates or a drunk time-traveller. A feminist godmother asks Cinderella a trenchant question. Three panels convert a single word sound into a hunter’s prey, the hunter’s unhappy surprise, and finally the same hunter’s parting interjection (with a footnote for those who don’t read Old English). Weighing in at about 150 storylines, with minimalist humans and a maximum number of expressive positions for them to hold, this makes an excellent vacation from the summer’s more traditional reading list.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA