Month: May 2012

Staff review of ‘Painting Stories’ at Foyles

After wandering into Foyles about once a week to check whether my books had sold (and always finding the copies tucked away, hidden from view, behind another similar sized book in the Nobrow small press shelf), I had an email from of the staff at Foyles, incidentally the person I first spoke to when I approached them about stocking a few of my books for sale. He had read through my book and thought it deserved to have some commercial success, most importantly, he enjoyed it and it was one of the very rare nuggets of feedback I’d ever received from someone I didn’t actually know as a friend. He said he’d write a staff review for my book and this is what it said:

“Painting Stories takes paintings by well known artists and
constructs short graphic stories around them. The stories
are beautifully written, stylish, dialogue-based tales drawn
in an elegant noir style. Like the paintings they are inspired
by, these stories have a kind of magic to them that makes
one want to return to them again. A highly accomplished
debut graphic novel.”

I don’t actually know where to even find the little review in the shop, but he told me that a copy went almost immediately after the review went up. So, thank you so much, Patrick, for a really invaluable helping hand! Seeing how slowly these books go, and how rarely they even attract attention, is discouraging me from working wholeheartedly on my second book. I think a big problem may be that people have preconceptions about the book when they read the blurb on the back cover, and unless they give it a chance and actually read a story or two, they will just find numerous reasons to dismiss it – I know the cover isn’t attractive and the production quality is amateurish at best; I’m still a bit disappointed with the glossy pages.

So.. on to book sales. My copies at Orbital Comics still haven’t shifted and the staff member I spoke to there was the least enthusiastic about my book, suggesting that I should move it on if it didn’t sell within 3 months. Well, I returned a week or so later and discovered my book had been put in a really inconspicuous bottom shelf, it took me more than 10 minutes to actually spot it in the little room even though I was actively looking out for it. No one would ever find it in there – it didn’t even look like the small press section was well-patronised anyway because the room was usually empty whenever I was there. So I expect to be collecting my books at the end of summer. Gosh Comics on the other hand, gave it a fairly prominent position on their small press shelf near the window. I sold my first copies there fairly quickly, possibly after the publicity of Comiket, but subsequently, sales have stalled there too… And Foyles, dear Foyles, in which I had placed so much hope… well, we will see if the review succeeds in shifting any books!

Graphic novels I’ve been reading

While I mull over my next work, and struggle to gain any new exposure at all for my ‘Painting Stories’ book (social networking is not my forte), I might blog about the graphic novels I have read in the past few months that have been worthy of mention.

The first is the much-awaited ‘Habibi‘ by Craig Thompson, a cool seven years in the making and a gorgeous (and hefty) tome. I got a signed copy from Foyles and settled down to read it last Sept, it wasn’t an easy book to devour in one sitting, so I think it took two or three, but this one wasn’t as compelling as ‘Blankets’, although the artwork was classic Craig Thompson, stunningly beautiful, expressive and awe-inspiring. I won’t give anything away here but it follows the lives of a slave girl and a little boy she ‘adopted’ through their childhood in what resembled a medieval Arabia through to the present day. This made the story seem allegorical rather than realistic. It was really an ambitious epic full of twists and turns in the plot, very readable and beautiful to behold, but the story itself failed to resonate with me. But this is very much a subjective view, as I tend to be very eccentrically choosy about the graphic novels I read, and I am sure it will be hugely popular with the rest of the graphic novel crowd.

The other book worthy of mention is Seth’s ‘George Sprott‘ which I read much earlier, and it is much in the style of his other books, following Sprott, an imaginary character, through his life as an Alaskan explorer and later, a Canadian radio commentator who slowly loses his audience as well as his cultural relevance in the modern world. Another typical Seth-nostalgic look back at what we’ve lost as we move forward into the 21st century. Naturally, this one struck a chord in me and I thoroughly enjoyed it, as well as the painstaking detail that went into the construction of the fictitious town where Sprott did his broadcasting and the lives of a rich and wholly believable array of characters on the periphery. This book will certainly appeal to anyone with a strong, nostalgic bent.

Moving on to a much more recent offering, and the most recent graphic novels I’ve read, are two books that I picked up at Comiket! I know I resolved not to buy any books at the fest but at least, I did not end up buying more books than I sold myself…! They were Simone Lia’s “Fluffy” and her latest book, “Please God, Find Me a Husband“. The first is a charming, albeit mostly inconsequential little book about a bunny (who denies he is a bunny) and a man whom the bunny recognises as his daddy. It was a sweet and amusing read but the bunny did get a little cloying towards the end, and I wasn’t so sure about having a ‘dust mote’ narrate the story at parts, to fill in for any gaps in the story. However, it was still a good effort for a first book.

The second book is more of a bravely autobiographical story about the artist’s bad luck with finding a suitable partner and how this led to her having an ‘adventure with God’. I didn’t think I’d ever read a graphic novel featuring a cartoon Blessed Sacrament… It was lighthearted and humorous and I found myself laughing out loud at a few of the pages, so it was an enjoyable read and more profound than its title might initially lead one to expect. It ended with her finding contentment with abandonment to the will of God. I think it is a tremendously important book and one that we desperately need in the world of graphic novels for it to be truly mature and diverse – indeed it may perplex, bemuse and even annoy the non-believer, but that is perhaps the purpose of a true artist, to be an agent provocateur and open eyes to life’s overlooked mysteries. I hope she will be successful in accomplishing that.