August 7

the Great Gatsby – a fresh look – Nicki Greenberg

A new view of the classic novel by F.Scott Fitzgerald is presented by Nicki Greenberg in her graphic adaptation – a book which was six years in the making. The suave Jay Gatsby comes to life as a seahorse, perhaps alluding to him as a creature of mystery and intrigue. His lifelong love interest, Daisy, features as a dandelion creature, and friend to all, Nick Carraway, presents in a slug-like appearance as he narrates the tragic tale.

Other characters within Nicki’s adaptation include the seductive Jordan Baker, Daisy’s long-time friend; with a somewhat shady side to her, Jordan’s squid-like appearance exudes her questionable nature. Another, Tom Buchanan who is Daisy’s husband, is a barechested beast of a character, with threatening size and appearance in most of the frames in which he appears. In both cases their nature is well defined by their appearance rather than words.

The era in which the novel was set is alluded to visually, using sepia tones and with frames set out like an old photo album. Greenberg alludes to the partying and glamour associated with the Gatsby lifestyle, as the in-crowd frolic in many of the photos. She also captures some of the inanity and vagueness of the partygoers’s conversations (reflecting their true interest: in being seen at Gatsby’s), though they finally fade to be ghosts of insignificance in the background as the story develops.

Reading ‘the Great Gatsby’ as a graphic novel brings about a different experience. But be warned: while some people read graphic novels rather quickly, it is well worth taking the time to absorb all the features – and to consider how Greenberg can change the tone of the story with colour, shading, placement of the frames and text within the frames. Use of whitespace (which is actually black) also works to alter the speed with which the story needs to be read. Even the changing placement of the individual picture/photo frames can impact on the pace and mood of the tale.

To paraphrase Nicki’s own words (when she was referring to a fellow graphic novelist’s book):

…try, if you possibly can, to slow down just a tiny bit. Linger a little in the wonderful lush landscapes of (Gatsby’s world and the fabulous intrigues of 1920’s New York). Enjoy the clever use of space in the page layouts, the colours and textures, and the complex blocking required to portray so many characters’ interlocking conversations.

For now, I think I will revisit both versions of the Great Gatsby again soon – the original to find the tone of the original author, and Nicki Greenberg’s version to find those intricate details I have missed the first time around. For more about the book from the author, see: http://nickigreenberg.com/gatsby.shtml.

There is also a great video where Nicki speaks about creating a graphic novel and points out some of the dfferences to a ‘normal’ book at: http://nickigreenberg.blogspot.com.au/2010/05/talking-about-adapting-gatsby.html – which makes really interesting viewing. If you haven’t tried a graphic novel before, then gives this book a go or look at some of those mentioned earlier on this blog.

August 2

Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

jane-bites-back“It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is still alive today.. as a vampire.”

As a Jane Austen fan you may, like many, approach this book cautiously. Is it just another spin-off, carelessly adapting the legendary Austen to help promote a new book? How adept is the writer, or is he just one riding on the fame of one of the classic authors of all time? Or maybe he’s an Austen fan just attempting to get in on the vampire/ Twilight craze?

The only way to judge is to read this tale: where Jane Austen is alive and running a bookstore in a sleepy little town called Brakeston near New York. From here, she hopes to publish a new novel, the first in her persona of Jane Fairfax – since it would be impossible to trade on her real name, when she supposedly died 200 years ago!

But the publishing world is tough, and her manuscript is rejected 116 times, before a glimmer of hope comes her way. We watch her frustrations, as all sorts of Jane-Austen-paraphernalia fly off the shelf of her bookstore, and she has to deal with the commercial roadshow of getting published.

Along the way, we find Jane is in fact a vampire; though a mostly well-behaved one. She never ages, and this has an impact on how she lives her life, and has forced her to relocate many times in the last 200 years.

Her dream to be published yet again is hampered by others out for self gain. How she deals with these episodes is told in a witty way, that will have readers chuckling as they consider the consequences for all those around her. Can she really expect to live a normal life? Can she maintain normal relationships? What will happen when her real identity is discovered? And who is the handsome mystery man that has such an impact on those around him?

Michael Thomas Ford’s book has received praise from lots of different readers – including Austen diehards, vampire lovers and romance readers. And he promises more to come (and certainly leaves the ending open for more to happen in Jane’s life). It’s a fun, quirky mix of literary history and a send up of the latest vampire rage, while providing a light entertaining tale set in the commerce of the modern day world. So just sit back and enjoy the tale – you will have others wondering what you are smiling about!

## And here’s a quote from the author, in case you were worried that he didn’t think much about Jane Austen’s place in history:

The thing is it never occurred to me that making Austen a vampire was in any way disrespectful. Rather, I looked at it as giving her the chance to take revenge on those who have appropriated her literary genius for their own profit. I thought her fans (among whom I of course count myself) would cheer this opportunity for her to reclaim her rightful place in the literary world, even if she does have to do it under a pseudonym. From an interview in the Huffington Post, January 4, 2010.