Skip to main content

Featured Post

A New Way of Living | Weekly Snapshot

I don't know about you guys but this has been one of the longest weeks ever. With schools closed and work moved to home, this has been a new way of living. When the changes and shutdowns came just before last weekend, there was no time to really process the information. Within days, life had changed. And then on Monday, I reported to work, from my home, with kids also at home. It was when Friday finally rolled along that I felt the gravity of the situation, how we'll be rarely getting out for weeks, if not for months. How schools were likely going to be closed for months. How work still had to be done remotely or worse, there was no work to do anymore due to layoffs or a shutdown. How there was not going to be any dining in restaurants for months.


That was a very sobering thought. I didn't sleep until 1.30am that night.

How are you all doing? What are some of your tips to keep your sanity on while we get through this very difficult time? Some of you are in places that are …

Review: Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

Title: Asterios Polyp
Author: David Mazzucchelli
Source: Library | This book won the LA Times Book Prize for Graphic Novels
344 pages




In a nutshell
Asterios Polyp is a middle-aged, meagerly successful architect and teacher, aesthete and womanizer. One night when his New York apartment goes up in flames, his whole life goes topsy-turvy, and he relocates to a small town. But how did he get there? Alternating between the present and the past, we see snippets of how his life was. We meet Hana, a first-generation Japanese American artist, with whom he had a blissful life. But now she's not there. What happened to them?

I think...
I quite liked the way this story is told. The splash of colors used made things very lively and sharp. Even for a graphic novel, it has some really memorable characters and deeply evocative character sketches. David Mazzucchelli has done a good job in developing some vivid characters. When the book starts, Asterios is portrayed as an arrogant teacher who thinks high of himself and spends much of his time teaching. When his apartment goes up in flames, he runs away from the life he knows and moves into a small town to work as a mechanic, although he doesn't know the first thing about repairing cars.

Alternating "chapters" recount his past and show how he is faring in the present. Through his past, we learn that he had once been in love with Hana, a shy but very talented artist, who stayed away from spotlights, to the extent of rejecting offers. I loved Hana! Asterios and Hana had a dynamic relationship. His ego caused him to often be sarcastically funny, while Hana always knew how to bring him down and handle him.


But Asterios is one of those characters I can never stand. The kinds that pretend to know everything, and usually have an opinion on anything and everything. At the messy home of a music composer, Asterios bosses around, not giving the composer much credit. I felt terribly sorry for the composer when every passionate statement of his was met with an aloof conjecture from Asterios.

When Asterios moves to a small town, he stays with Stiff, a mechanic whose wife Ursula is one hilarious character. She arranges his room in an auspicious layout, after inquiring his birth-date. When she finally shows him to his room, it looks really weird in a non-functional way.

Asterios Polyp has a well-illustrated storyline. The illustrations are well done, plus the emotions conveyed are strongly felt. Although I would recommend this book for its novel-format story-telling (similar to what I found in Chicken with Plums), I found it too preachy at times. There are whole "chapters" that I couldn't enjoy much, and I blame that mainly on my low perception of graphics. I'm sure someone who enjoys deciphering images and relating them to the main story and the hidden messages, would find this book wonderful. Moreover, most of the references to philosophy and philosophers were quite lost on me. This book has been touted to be the best among graphic novels in 2009, in plenty of lists, so I do feel that that I didn't grasp this book as much as I would like. I appreciated the vivid persona of Asterios Polyp, and how his beliefs shaped his character, but the frequent philosophical undertones just didn't capture my interest.

What did you think?
Have you read this book? I'd like to know what you thought about it. Please leave your review link in the comments, or a brief opinion, if you hadn't reviewed it.

Did you like it or you didn't? If you didn't, at what point did the book turn you off.

Comments

Ash said…
The images in this are great! I think I might still give it a try for that alone, hopefully my experience is a little better though.
Tales of Whimsy said…
Wow. How cool. I love all the different things you introduce me to.
Athira said…
Ash, I sure hope you enjoy it better than me. It had all the good elements in it. I read it for a read-a-thon which was another reason I couldn't enjoy it much.

Juju, thank you! :)

Julie, you should read Chicken with Plums. It is a great read!

Popular posts from this blog

Hell-Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri (Short Fiction Review)

I first read Jhumpa Lahiri years ago, when her Interpreter of Maladies was making a huge buzz. At the time, I didn't catch any of the buzz, but for some reason, when I saw the book on the shelf at the store I was browsing in, I felt it just might be a decent read. Funnily, I read the entire short story collection without complaining about it, but for some reason, I cannot read any collection anymore without agonizing over its disjoint nature.

I did enjoy Interpreter of Maladies, but I did get bothered by the thread of loneliness and infidelity and distrust that laced through the stories. For that reason, I have been reluctant to read Unaccustomed Earth. However, when I came across Hell-Heaven at the NewYorker - a free short story from her book, I decided to go ahead and read it. I can't resist the pull of stories set in India or featuring Indian characters, and it is that same aspect that hooked me throughout this story.


In Hell-Heaven, the narrator contemplates the relations…

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Maybe that’s what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place.
Bernadette Fox has a reputation. While her husband and her daughter Bee love her, there's barely anyone else who share the sentiment. Her neighbor Audrey loves to gossip mean things about her with her close friend, Soo-Lin. The other parents of kids at Bee's school look down on Bernadette because she doesn't involve herself in school affairs. Bernadette herself goes out of her way to avoid company.

And then one day, Bee comes home with an excellent report card and asks for her reward - a family trip to Antarctica. The very plan throws Bernadette into a panic but she has no other option. She hires a virtual assistant, based out of India to take care of all her demands, including getting prescriptions at her local pharmacy, doing her online shopping and taking care of some of the logistics of her trip. (It is ridiculous! Bern…

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (Short Fiction review)

With the Hunger Games hype that engulfed us last week, it was hard to avoid all the discussion of similar works that existed. Of the many titles that I came across, two stood out particularly - a short story called The Lottery and a Japanese novel (and movie) called Battle Royale (which I'm reading right now and just cannot put down). The novel will be fodder for another post, so for now, I just want to rave about the awesomeness that was The Lottery.

In contemporary America, villagers across the country are gathering on the 27th of June (and some a day earlier) for an annual event called the Lottery. Children, women, men, all come to the main square of their village or town, where the lottery master keeps a black box full of paper chips. One of these chips is marked has a special mark on it to identify the winner (the person who draws that chip). Not everyone draws however, but only the head of the family. Husbands are viewed as the head of their families/households, and if the …