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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tried it! Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

Posted by Devin G. and Amanda E.

Because March is graphic novel month at the library, Amanda volunteered to "try out" an graphic novel that Devin suggested. Below is a discussion about the graphic novel after Amanda finished it.

Devin G
For graphic novel month, you read Ghost World by Daniel Clowes. It focuses on Rebecca and Enid, both of whom struggle to come to terms with their lives after graduating high school. Many critics have described it as being a frank look into the lives of modern teenagers. Do you think these two actually capture the behavior of modern teenagers? Are their struggles relatable?

Amanda E
Enid and Rebecca definitely embody some of the stereotypical behaviors of teenager-hood, like the self-assurance that your opinion is absolutely correct and everyone else’s is absolutely wrong, the lack of empathy and respect for the people around you (especially elders), and an arrogant and absolute confidence in your world view.   I don’t know though, I know a lot of teenagers who don’t behave like this  so, maybe,  Enid and Rebecca’s behavior has less to do with being teenagers and more to do with being horrible people.    
I also want to interject here that Clowes was in his early to mid 30s when he wrote this and I think that that is reflected in his interpretation of teenage/early adulthood from a female perspective.  His characters are definitely not one dimensional but they are not multi-dimensional enough to feel like real people.  They are definitely still characters expressing a few facets of experience but lacking some of the really important aspects. 
As far as their struggles being relatable; I really think they were.  Much of the story has to do with these two high school friends being so comfortable together that they can speak with no filter but also realizing that maybe their friendship is holding them back from becoming the adults they eventually want to be.  Enid even says as much during one scene.   The truest part of the story, I felt, was the exploration of that time right after high school but before you’ve moved on to the next thing.   There’s a certain ennui mixed with terror that I thought was captured really well.

Devin G:
You said you had seen the movie adaptation and enjoyed it. Do you think the changes made to the story in the film were done for the better? Does the movie manage to capture the overall feel of the graphic novel despite these changes?

Amanda E:
It has been awhile since I watched the movie so I have a slightly fuzzy recollection of it.  However, I found the movie characters of Enid and Rebecca, Enid especially, much more likeable than the graphic novel characters.  They were still pretty judgmental and self absorbed but it was easier to understand that behavior as a reaction to being marginalized.  In the comic there was no softening to the harsh edges of Enid’s character.   I thought that the movie felt generally more optimistic than the graphic novel.   You know how I said earlier that the comic characters weren’t multidimensional enough?  I think the movie does a better job of creating deeper characters than the comic does.  Of course, some of that can be attributed to the medium.

Devin G:
The art style is different than any other graphic novel I've read. The characters are drawn realistically and the author uses only two colors. For some reason it was incredibly hard for me to get used to. Did you face any challenges with Clowes’ style? Do you think it detracts from the story itself?

Amanda E:
I didn't struggle with his style at all.  I thought the monochrome (duochrome?) style really informed the subject matter.  Rebecca and Enid are not bright, full spectrum of the rainbow kinds of chicks.  Persona wise, I mean.  The blue wash just really emphasizes the character outlooks and their current place in life.  I also really appreciated his realistic style.  Some of the characters and facial expressions bordered on the grotesque but I thought that that choice was in line with the emphasis of the story.

Devin G:
Who would be interested in Ghost World? Would you recommend it?  

Amanda E:
I wouldn't not recommend it?  It is definitely not “feel-good” reading.  I don’t know who I would recommend it to.  Teenagers? As an example of how not to behave?

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