Review: From “Kubla Khan” to the Bronte Sisters to The Picture of Dorian Gray (The Graphic Canon #2)

canonAdapted from the summary: 

The Graphic Canon, Volume 2 gives us a visual cornucopia based on the wealth of literature from the 1800s. It includes novels such as Huckleberry Finn, Frankenstein, Moby Dick and Anna Karenina. Also visualized is poetry from the literary to the nonsensical; from Poe to Dickinson and everyone in between. Philosophy and science are ably represented by ink versions of Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra and Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Curveballs in this volume include fairy tales illustrated by the untameable S. Clay Wilson, a fiery speech from freed slave Frederick Douglass, a letter on reincarnation from Flaubert, the Victorian erotic classic Venus in Furs, the drug classic The Hasheesh Eater, and silk-screened illustrations for the ghastly children’s classic Der Struwwelpeter.

The second volume of the Graphic Canon is equally as impressive as the first in terms of both the variety of artwork, the depth of the commentary and the breadth of the selection of literature.

In order to refrain from repeating myself, I’ll attempt to elaborate on my review of the first volume.

When thinking of the literary canon, one automatically thinks of novels and poetry, typically non-fiction. However, as Russ Kick points out, there are many important works that are non-fiction, or that are letters or speeches.To some degree, this book made me question what constitutes the literary canon and whether there even can be a concrete definition.

Another thing that I noticed, and that you are called attention to, is the number of works that that at the time of their publication, were met with public disapproval or were ignored. It was only much later that these works were recognized as being valuable. Which, and I guess this ties into what I said above, makes you think about how literature, like everything else, requires the right time and place. There are probably works that have been lost to time that today we would find exceptional and conversely, how many novels that are famous today will remain so in a hundred years time?

The last thing I want to talk about is censorship – how over the course of time novels and stories have been censored to the point where the versions we are familiar with today are not what the author wrote or intended. Perhaps this should be remedied?

Recommended to lovers of literature and graphic novels.


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