I must confess that I have always thought graphic novels were just comic books with literary pretensions. I casually dismissed them as a symptom of our culture’s increasing infantilisation; adults read books, children stories with pictures. Well, having seen Persepolis - a faithful translation of the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi - I’m happy to admit I was wrong.
We should care less. There will be much volte-face from the literati as they attempt to cling to their right to review work about which they know little or nothing and care even less. Who cares about Cosmo's alleged epiphany? Does he even know that Road to Perdition and A History of Violence and Ghost World, no doubt all movies he has seen, were graphic novels? I doubt it. I mean it's not even as if he has read Persepolis, he is praising the graphic novel because he believes the animated movie is 'a faithful translation of the graphic novel'.
I suppose we are all meant to be delighted he has seen the light, but I'm sorry, I predicted that this sort of thing would happen as the literary establishment attempts to canonise certain graphic novels in order to keep the Barbarians from crossing the chasm to their citadel. Does Cosmo really no longer think that graphic novels are a symptom of the 'infantilisation' of our culture? I seriously doubt it. But tell me this, since Britain's very poor showing in the league table of reading showed that the most popular reading material in this country is celebrity cookbooks and 'autobiographies' by the likes of Jordan - a woman who has now written more books than she has read - how can he ever have believed that graphic novels were inferior reading matter? Oh yes, because they contain pictures as well as text.
So that's it in a nutshell is it? The pictures, the drawings, they drag the written word down. Is that really the case? I somehow doubt it. I may be wrong, but I think there was a concerted effort, as evidenced in the blogs below on Radio 4's review programme, to rubbish and denigrate graphic novels because they represent a threat to both the established stables of authors, and their reviewer friends (I also think the fear of illustrations in this country has very deep historical and political and religious roots - but we wont get into that just now).
Anyway, as I said Cosmo isn't talking about Persepolis 1 and Persepolis 2 or the collected work, he is actually talking about the movie Persepolis, which as Tom Spurgeon pointed out some time back, looks a lot rougher and less polished than the animation - which looks simply stunning:
I hope I'm not being too negative here. I mean, it seems that as long as reviewers like Cosmo can watch a movie based on the book, they can make the connection between the words and the pictures and can actually work out how graphic novels work. That offers more hope than the reviewers on BBC Radio 4 who didn't understand how you actually go about reading the things (graphic novels). We have come such a long way, and in such a short time.
Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter started collecting articles and links on Marjane Satrapi and Persepolis back in April 2005, long before Cosmo and his friends decided to jump on the graphics novel bandwagon. The page here is worth a visit for the real Satrapi fans.