I Will If You Will

I started reading a graphic novel called The Sandman: Dream Country today. It’s only the second time I’ve ever attempted to read a graphic novel, and the first time I’ve stuck with it.

Hmmm, you say, not really my cup of chai. Normally, I would’ve said so too.

My first foray was the Batman reboot The Dark Knight. Despite being a big fan of the ‘60s TV show, this gothic vision of the Caped Crusader just didn’t pack the same POW! I was also an avid “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” watcher, but somehow never was tempted to pick up Joss Whedon’s Fray series.

So, why now? Why Sandman? It’s the next selection in the I Will If You Will Book Club, a side project of NPR’s “Monkey See” blog (see fawning rave for this culture blog in previous post). I’ll let blog editor Linda Holmes explain the concept:

“For those of you who don’t know, the I Will If You Will Book Club began here at ‘Monkey See’ as a way to read books we might otherwise not choose to tackle, whether because of their reputations or because they’re a different style than we typically prefer, or whatever. We have gone both lowbrow (Twilight) and highbrow (Moby-Dick). I have personally been really glad that I read both of those books, even though they were both difficult in their own unique, vampy, whale-anatomy-intensive ways.”

You’ll have picked up that the whole thing started as a sort of Twilight dare. A lot of people who love good books and films and who generally support reading have piled on the Twilight-hatin’ bandwagon. And a lot of those same haters have never read the book that ignited the flame that became the series and later the movies. It was a bit like the whole Harry Potter sensation, but with many, many more dementors.

The premise of I Will If You Will is that one might be a bit hasty with the criticism prior to the actual reading of the book (and, to be fair, seeing the movie is not the same thing, as any Harry Potter fan will take pains to tell you in groaning detail – far, far too much detail). Reading the book gives you a foundation from which to detract or change your mind. It seems to me that this is the difference between thinking critically and just being critical.

It’s why I’ve read Twilight and The DaVinci Code and other novels that capture the attention of the masses, and I don’t mean “masses” in any kind of insulting sense. That is what popular culture is all about, and it’s why I’m a consuming member of the masses myself.

As writers, and as consumers (“devourers” might be the better word, in Sandman context) of writing, exploring new territory is imperative. It expands our vocabulary, literally, and the creative centers of our brains to boot, granting us access to new options (for example, storytelling that’s fully embedded in a visual medium – yet relies on the imagination in deeper ways than films or TV shows do).

Reading this graphic novel today reminded me (as a corporate communicator) that I’ve seen both health and safety information conveyed in comic-book-esque form, and the uniqueness of the medium – in our seemingly all-online world of communications these days – may be just what a particular, targeted audience is looking for.

I’d have serious reservations about recommending this volume to anyone under the age of 20, but if you’re into the “we’ll all learn together” approach of I Will If You Will or you were curious about graphic novels or you were looking for a book club, maybe you’ll check it out here (there’s still time to get The Sandman: Dream Country and devour it before the first online chat starts).

Writing that inspired me this week:

“Maybe I wrote in invisible ink/Oh, I’ve tried to think/How I could’ve made it appear/But another illustration is wasted because the results are the same/I feel like a ghost/who’s trying to move your hands/over some Ouija board in the hopes/I can spell out my name.”
Aimee Mann, “Invisible Ink” from the album “Lost in Space”