November 8th, 2007 | Other Projects
I’m in DC. Tomorrow night is the graphic novel panel I’m doing with Chris Ware and Lynda Barry. Tonight PEN/Faulkner, the organization that brought us here, is having a dinner for us where some local comics experts are going to discuss “teaching graphic texts in the classroom.” Coincidentally, a professor at SUNY Oneonta has asked me to participate in the discussion her online class, “Academic Success Strategies,” is having about Fun Home. It’s always gratifying to hear that my graphic memoir is being taught in a class. But at the same time, it’s weird knowing that people are being forced to read it.
Indeed, several people in this class commented on how they were dreading the assignment to read half the book before class this week. But when they opened it up and saw that it was a comic book, they were awash with relief. One person wrote, “The reading went very quickly and painlessly.”
I have to say, that’s about the highest praise a writer can ask for. And part of why I tell stories in pictures, I think, is for just that reason—to create a quick and painless reading experience. Not that regular books are necessarily painful, by any means. But I have a terrible fear of boring people, and I find that telling a story visually is kind of like chewing up the food a little bit for the reader so they don’t have as much work to do.
I’ve never really thought this out clearly…so maybe it doesn’t hold water. And why do I think people want me to chew their food for them? That’s a little condescending…not to mention disgusting. Let me retract the metaphor.
I guess the question is, Are graphic narratives necessarily easier to read? I suppose they make their own kinds of demands on the reader. Like, for example, a couple of the students in this class also said they had trouble figuring out “how to read” my book at first. I think they meant, like, whether to go across both pages or first do the left page then the right. I thought reading comics was practically an autonomic reflex, something we do without thinking about it. But I guess there’s a slight learning curve.
Maybe I’ve just answered the question. Don’t you find this long passage of text, with no drawings or photographs to leaven it, kind of BORING?