Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This book wil not leave you in stitches

David Small had a worse childhood than you did. Really. You probably got in more fights or maybe you lost a family member, but did your parents give you cancer and ignore the signs for years? I thought not. If you are not already terrified you should check out the graphic memoir Stitches, in which Small retells his childhood.

As you might guess, the whole thing is grim. The tone is oppressive and you feel terrible for the little boy, who appears mostly to be a hindrance to his parents. Even the art is grim, which isn't so much black and white as it is ranges of gray.

The art though is what makes the book work. Small does a great job capturing the wandering attention of a child and the child's need to play. This happy moments are contrasted by the terrible visages of his relatives. At the most benign, his father's expressions are hidden behind his glasses and his pipe. His mother's face is contorted by her resentments and her rage at her situation. His grandmother, whom he fortunately rarely sees, is marked by fits of sadism and madness.

How he gets the cancer will be fairly obvious early on (his father is a radiologist) but how his parents deal with it is shocking. It is another doctor that calls attention to the growth on his neck and his parents constantly attempt to deflect attention from it.

It's terribly sad and well done, which means the critics love it. It's not for everyone, but I found i haunting.

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