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October 26, 2013

Weekend Reviews: Graphic novel a perfect glimpse of 'Little Things'

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The Daily Star

---- — Most everyone who loves to write also loves to read, and I’m no exception. I can spend days doing nothing but devouring a novel. I’ll frequently become infatuated with a book and feel like I physically cannot put it down until I’ve read it cover to cover. I think that’s fairly common for writers: obsessing over books and the written word in general. 

However, over the past couple years I’ve developed a taste for a different type of novel that doesn’t seem to be quite as popular among writers. Nevertheless, I love ‘em.

I started getting into graphic novels around two years ago; coincidentally, about the same time I realized that there were comics out there besides “Spiderman” and “The Incredible Hulk.” I had just discovered a new blog, Hanging Rock Comics. The site was run by a 17-year-old girl from Indiana who expressed her angst and yearning desire for freedom through messy, poorly scanned doodles. I was entranced by her laid-back drawing style, and how honestly she expressed her opinions about her peers and high-school experience. Finding her blog opened the door to a whole new genre of books and websites whose existence I was previously oblivious to: autobiographical comics.

And this brings us to what I’m really here to talk about — one of my favorite graphic novels: “Little Things: A Memoir In Slices” by Jeffrey Brown. Although he seems to be known primarily for his triad of comics depicting the ups and downs of three failed relationships, I think there’s something to be said for the subtle approach and poignancy of “Little Things.”

The drawings are in Brown’s familiar six-panel style: two columns, three rows, and sketched in exclusively black pen and ink. I love his drawing style because it’s so easy-going and loose; none of the panels are entirely perfect, but it’s evident how much effort was put into the composition. The imperfections give the book a homemade vibe, which makes the comics feel more personal and emotional. Each character appears extremely expressive, and the detail put into the background and shading of each comic is extensive.

It’s hard to appreciate the complexity of the drawings and the book as a whole without seeing it in print. Flipping through the pages and looking at the tiny worlds in each panel is exciting. It’s easy to get pulled into the comics and feel as if you’re experiencing the stories firsthand.

The book is composed of short, vignette-type comics depicting an assortment of seemingly unrelated memories from the author’s life, events spanning from 2001-2006 (Hint: check the back of the book for a useful “chronology” chart). I think the wide variety of subject matter is one of my favorite aspects of the novel. The stories range from recollections of car accidents and a gall bladder operation, to things as simple as a trip to the mountains or hearing a good song on the radio and trying to figure out who it’s by.

What makes the book meaningful, however, isn’t any of the stories in particular, but rather all of them as a whole. It’s about how the small moments that don’t seem to matter much in the grand scheme of things end up shaping your life and the kind of person you are. It’s about happy coincidences and losing someone you didn’t know you needed. It’s about coming home after a long day, and looking up at the sky and feeling how alive you are and then realizing your insignificance. It’s about, in the simplest of terms, “Little Things.” And that’s what makes it so incredible.

Katie Huntington is a junior at Oneonta High School. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/teentalk