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Why a Classic Is a Classic
A starred review today, from our graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:
Sequential art has been the go-to format for creators and adaptors, bowdlerizers and clever clogs who rework, or try to rework, classics. Disney-sponsored Scrooge McDuck, Posy Simmonds’ Gemma Bovery, published-for-classroom Manga Shakespeare, and Will Eisner’s repurposing of Moby Dick give only the beginning of the idea of the gamut these efforts can run. What the specific instances throughout the whole range share, however, is the bedrock of “classic literature” on which the new take/version/interpretation can be built. Nick Hayes’ The Rime of the Modern Mariner shows how elegant, poignant, and –yes, clever—such work can be.
The nature of classic literature is a chemically bound brew of universally accessible themes, compelling plotting, and concepts and/or characters that can be examined from many angles. Samuel Coleridge’s text isn’t, as some students would believe, a classic because your teacher says so, but because it delivers all these elements, brewed and stewed and recognizably dressed up in the highest quality of 21st century sentiments and affairs. And that’s what Nick Hayes has done admirably: cut the cloth and designed the drape and selected the tones to create a truly new, intense, and thorough-going experience, built on the bedrock of Coleridge’s classic.
* HAYES, Nick. The Rime of the Modern Mariner. illus. by author. Viking. 2012. Tr $32. ISBN 978-0-670-02580-0.
Adult/High School–In cleverly constructed verse that echoes (without mimicking) Coleridge, Hayes presents the tale of a 21st-century explorer who has ridden the high seas in search of (illegally hunted) whale bone for scrimshaw. He has been sucked into the swirling mass of garbage in the north Pacific (see Rachel Hope Allison’s I Am Not a Plastic Bag [Archaia 2012]) and eventually comes to a London park bench to regale a businessman who has just signed his own divorce papers and will not be swayed to consider any concern beyond his own polished life’s. Faux block print style artwork abounds with textures–the tangles of old fishing nets, the plaids of shirts, the curly head of the mariner, the woodsy grotto where he is nursed to health–all washed in a gentle blue. With just a line or two on most full-page spreads, some passages are told only visually; Hayes has plotted the panels and isolated full-page moments in elegant harmony with the rhyme itself. This is stellar sequential art, offering the juxtaposition of human greed that has remained a species-signature across the centuries with the environmental mess this greed and selfishness has wrought. It also offers access to Coleridge’s original by showing the bones of symbolism he employed.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA
Filed under: Graphic Novels
About Angela Carstensen
Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.
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