All the graphic details
by Roberto Friedman
Graphic novels have come into their own only in recent times, shedding their association with comic books and superheroes and gaining literary respectability. Art Spiegelman's Maus was a striking and important addition to the Holocaust literature; Alison Bechdel's Fun Home took on such matters as same-sex familial secrets and suicide. By now, just because a novel is illustrated as well as written doesn't disqualify it from serious consideration.
Two graphic works have just made their way to Out There's desk. Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" – The Authorized Graphic Adaptation by Miles Hyman (Hill and Wang) is a beautiful re-telling of the classic short story by Jackson, who was born 100 years ago in San Francisco. Hyman is Jackson's grandson, an artist and printmaker. He has made a specialty of adapting classic literature into graphic novels, so it's natural that he turned to illustrating his grandmother's most famous story.
Jackson's centenary has brought a flurry of publishing activity. FSG is reissuing The Lottery and Other Stories, Liveright has published Ruth Franklin's biography Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life to acclaim, and Penguin is reissuing classic Jackson spookers The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. "The Lottery" is Jackson's immortal tale of small-town tradition and ritual, and how group think and mob rule can lead to atrocities, even in the name of "family values." Its terrifying relevance will apparently never go out of style.
Soviet Daughter – A Graphic Revolution by Julia Alekseyeva (Microcosm) is Julia's recounting of her great-grandmother Khinya "Lola" Ignatovskaya's 100-year life (1910-2010), interspersed with scenes from the author's own 21st-century life. Lola was born in the Jewish ghetto of Kiev before the Russian Revolution. During the Civil War period that followed, the most violent atrocities in Kiev (pogroms) against Jews, other minorities and the poor were carried out by Ukrainian nationalists. Lola survived them, then weathered the Stalinist purges and murders of the 1930s.
WWII came to Kiev with a vengeance in 1941, as the city was a major target for the Germans. Lola escaped with her two young children to Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, just outside Kiev, Babi Yar was the site of the deadliest two-day massacre of the Holocaust. Most of Lola's family died at the hands of the Nazis. She and her children's families filed refugee papers and were finally allowed to leave the Soviet Union for America in 1992. When Lola died, she left her savings, $5,000, to Julia, who used it in production of this graphic account of Lola's tumultuous life and times.
Though Julia is pictured at a Gay Pride Parade in Chicago, and makes brief mention of the break-up of her non-gender-specified relationship, her book's focus is on her great-grandmother's life, not her own. Throughout her book and Hyman's, their artwork is as much a driver of the narrative as the words. It's a new way to tell serious stories.
Fresh from their success promoting Absolutely Fabulous the Movie, the Royal British Comedy Theatre company is performing two delicious AbFab episodes, Sex and Small Opening, at the Exit Theatre through Nov. 19. In the former, playgirls Edina and Patsy plan an orgy; in the latter, Eddy's put-upon daughter Saffy dramatizes their pathetic existence. Everyone in the cast gives it their all (Terrence McLaughlin is Edina, ZsaZsa Lufthansa is Patsy, Dene Larson is Saffy, Ryan Engstrom is Gran, Raya Light is Bubble; Lisa Appleyard , Nick Leonard, Ginorma Desmond, Steven Sparrow, Lisa Darter , and Hilda Roe), with McLaughlin absolutely nailing Jennifer Saunders ' classic portrayal. Info: rbct.us.