- Published: New York : Pantheon Books, c2009.
- Year Published: 2009
- Edition: 1st ed.
- Description: 1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 27 cm.
- Language: English
- Format: Graphic Novel
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Call number: Graphic Novel
Asterios Polyp, its arrogant, prickly protagonist, is an award-winning architect who's never built an actual building, and a pedant in the midst of a spiritual crisis. After the structure of his own life falls apart, he runs away to try to rebuild it into something new.
Polyp is an architecture professor. He's extremely smart and very, very impressed with himself. No matter the topic, he takes over the conversation, expounding and opining at great length. Somehow he finds a woman who will tolerate him and marries her. When the story begins, she's already gone, but we don't know how or why.
Mazzucchelli milks the medium for all it's worth. Characters are periodically drawn in ways that accentuate their differences: Polyp is a construct of cylinders and cones and boxes; his wife Hana is composed of textured shading. An imaginary spotlight is used to illustrate how Polyp makes everything about him, up to and including Hana's artistic successes. Even the shapes of the word balloons are representative of the characters they belong to. It's all masterfully done.
While the writing is weird at times--the book is narrated by his twin who died in infancy, for example, and the story constantly seems to veer off on irrelevant tangents--it's also extremely effective. (One tangent turns out to be a HUGE bit of foreshadowing). The blowhards are pompous, the intelligentsia are articulate, the salt-of-the-earth types sound, well, genuinely salty. Polyp's personal growth in his wife's absence is handled deftly and delicately; Mazzucchelli lets you absorb the change without hitting you over the head with it.
The weirdness initially made it hard for me to pick up any momentum but Asterios Polyp was very easy to finish. In fact it had one of the best endings I've ever seen in a graphic novel (YMMV, my wife thought it was bizarre).
I enjoyed the flashback/present day narrative thread, which added so much to the book's complexity. I feel like this is just calling Asterios Polyp a graphic novel is an understatement. It's also a visual masterpiece, it's a coming-of-middle-age story, it's a puzzle, it's a love story. Basically, it's much more than a novel.
This is a complex and beautiful book, so layered and detailed that it begs to be read again and again. I read it twice, starting it again only hours after I finished it. I've since been occasionally Googling it to see what others thought and what they've caught that I missed.
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