No one knew Andre the Giant. Everyone knew who he was, once he gained fame as a professional wrestler, once The Princess Bride was released, and once Shepard Fairey plastered his face on a million buildings. But Box Brown’s new graphic novel biography highlights how little people knew of Andre Roussimoff in real life. He had colleagues in the wrestling world, he was friends with actors and celebrities, he had girlfriends, he even had a daughter. But he remains a mystery. Readers looking for an answer to that mystery will be disappointed by this biography. It’s entertaining, well-written, and masterfully illustrated, but the story of Andre’s life is told from the outside looking in, with no special insight into his point of view.
It’s worth reading, and I certainly learned more about Andre’s life than I knew before. But if anything, Brown’s book heightens the mystery surrounding the man. Fair warning: this book will whet your appetite for the full story, without providing satisfaction. Reading it is a bittersweet experience.
Read if you enjoyed: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Find Andre the Giant at Multnomah County Library
This graphic novel memoir is adapted from Brosh’s blog, also titled Hyperbole and a Half. And like a blog, the chapters jump about fairly randomly–this is not a comprehensive life story. But the sections on Brosh’s childhood are the weirdest, funniest stuff I’ve read in a long time. She strikes the reader as a kind of Calvin without a Hobbes, a chaotic force far more powerful than her tiny size would suggest, but with a surprising level of self-awareness. In one chapter she writes about reading at age 27 a letter that she had written to her future self when she was 5.
Some parts of this book made me shake with laughter. Some parts were quite dark. She describes her crushing depression very frankly, in a way that highlights the futility of other people’s efforts to “cheer her up.” The book as a whole is uneven but very refreshing. I feel torn. One one hand, I hope Brosh continues the blog because it’s extremely entertaining. But on the other hand, her main source of material seems to be the misfortunes in her life, and I certainly don’t wish her any more of those.
Read if you enjoyed: Monster Party by Lizzy Acker, Bookhunter by Jason Shiga.
Look for Hyperbole and a Half at Multnomah County Library
One of Mark Siegel’s previous works, To Dance, is a nonfiction collaboration with his wife Siena Cherson Siegel (ballerina and author). That book, like this one, is a graphic novel, but they have little else in common. Siegel’s spooky and ethereal artwork, which in To Dance conveyed the graceful movement of the ballet, in Sailor Twain depicts ghostlike half-beings and underwater encounters. This sizable novel is also decidedly more adult, not only portraying sex and sensuality, but making them a central theme.
Sailor Twain is a story of magic and obsession, of love and bondage and escape. Although it deals with the fantastical, it is more gothic romance than fantasy. And the contents are much darker than the brightly colored cover suggests. Recommended reading for fans of marine mythology.
Read if you enjoyed: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, Rage of Poseidon by Anders Nilsen.
Find Sailor Twain at Multnomah County Library
Bookhunter is the graphic novel version of a 1970s cop movie. But like all good adaptations, it has a twist: the cop in question is a library detective, and he applies the full force of the law to track down the person stealing rare books from the Oakland Public Library. Criminal profiling, SWAT teams, car chases—this is librarianship like you’ve never seen it. Shiga is also the author of the mind-bending Meanwhile (a choose-your-own-adventure-style graphic novel), but I prefer the straightforward storytelling of Bookhunter. This is an entertaining read with lots of in-jokes for book lovers, and a great graphic novel.
Read if you enjoyed: Rex Libris by James Turner, Super Spy by Matt Kindt
Look for Bookhunter at Multnomah County Library.