Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Review: Au Bonheur des Dames, by Emile Zola

To paint a matter from every vantage and sympathy, to avoid sermonising, that is the trait of a great novelist, rare and to-be-cherished. Towards matters like generational divides and consumerism such impartiality is sparser still, but Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies’ Delight/Paradise) reaches as close to this as possible. He descends to neither the level of moss-eyed reactionary, nor that of the skater gripping the rear bar of Progress’ train. Through exhaustive research and nearly two decades hindsight, Zola explores the bud and bloom of the department store, viewing it personally and societally, from the perspective of the new age’s victors to its losers, from its young to its old.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Review: Strangers in Paradise Omnibus Edition, by Terry Moore

To note: this is a review of the omnibus edition of SiP. Reading the series over a decade, or even all at once, in issue form, would produce a marginally different review to this one. This review comes from reading two 1000+ page tomes. Also, while I will not spoil the events of the ending, I will describe the comic-language and story-telling techniques of the ending. 

On the shelf, a woman’s blackened eye stares at me through a tear in darkness. The eye, reddened and swollen, does not cry, not even quivering to predict tears. Firm eyes, strong spirit, looking out beneath the words, ‘Strangers in Paradise: Omnibus,’ and above the signature, ‘Terry Moore’. Not merely box art, but an image from within the story imposed without, overflowing into reality, as if to say, ‘This is no slice-of-life contained between two covers for easy intake. This is life.’  

‘Epic-length relationship drama’ will likely turn off a large portion (of a certain half) of SiP’s potential readers. A two thousand page exploration of the lives of two women, Francine and Katchoo, whose relationships filial, romantic and platonic bloom, whither and still-birth before us. A good deal of men, I shall generalise, might condemn it, unread, as ‘chick-lit’ (here used pejoratively). I won’t say it is more than that, out of respect to chick-lit*, but I will say it is more than they think of that.     
Written over fourteen years, from 1993 to 2007, totalling 106 issues Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise is comprised of three ‘volumes’, and since its initial publication has been acclaimed as one of comics’ masterworks. The first volume, only three issues long, feels like Moore winding his characters up to see how they run, testing the dramatic potential of their relationships to decide whether a grander undertaking could be set upon.