I think of myself as a non-visual person. I’m too inebriated (in a good way) by words to perceive much else when words are in front of me. Because of that, I don’t think I’ve read a graphic novel since Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, by Art Spiegelman, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 with its unusual evoking of the Holocaust through the eyes of a mouse.
Genius, a graphic novel by Steven T. Seagle, a writer, and Teddy Kristiansen, a Danish artist, appealed to me because I think we all need to stretch ourselves. Okay, I need to.
I’d also noted that the story is atheist in perspective. Its atheism is worn very quietly. Only one line about a quarter of the way through the 126-page novel expresses the narrator’s godlessness, and it’s not a spoiler if I quote it: “I’m an atheist—most educated people are.”
From two to about five panels per page tell the story of a man who worries all the time. He’s smart, he’s having trouble coming up with a zinger of an idea to placate his boss, he doesn’t know how to help his wife who may be seriously ill, and he constantly interacts with his cognitively-impaired and irascible father-in-law (to whom Einstein once told a big secret [?]).
You won’t find any really bright colors here, even in the abstract panels aiming to describe mental processes. Everything is subtly shaded, but a reader soon figures out whether pale blue or green or beige represents a particular character’s words or thoughts. The softness of the presentation goes remarkably well with the subtlety of the surrealism of the story.
The surrealism isn’t what sticks with you about Genius, though. It’s the humanistic, realistic parts, the coming-to-terms with what a life, at its best, can be and mean.
- For more insight into the author’s background, read an interview of Seagle by Patrick Kevin Day here.
Copyright (2013) by Susan K. Perry
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