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The Graphic Canon, Volume 1: From The Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liaisons

Overview

THE GRAPHIC CANON (Seven Stories Press) is a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind trilogy that brings classic literatures of the world together with legendary graphic artists and illustrators. There are more than 130 illustrators represented and 190 literary works over three volumes—many newly commissioned, some hard to find—reinterpreted here for readers and collectors of all ages.

Volume 1 takes us on a visual tour from the earliest literature through the end of the 1700s. Along the ...

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Overview

THE GRAPHIC CANON (Seven Stories Press) is a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind trilogy that brings classic literatures of the world together with legendary graphic artists and illustrators. There are more than 130 illustrators represented and 190 literary works over three volumes—many newly commissioned, some hard to find—reinterpreted here for readers and collectors of all ages.

Volume 1 takes us on a visual tour from the earliest literature through the end of the 1700s. Along the way, we're treated to eye-popping renditions of the human race's greatest epics: GilgameshThe IliadThe Odyssey (in watercolors by Gareth Hinds), The AeneidBeowulf, and The Arabian Nights, plus later epics The Divine Comedy and The Canterbury Tales (both by legendary illustrator and graphic designer Seymour Chwast), Paradise Lost, and Le Morte D'Arthur. Two of ancient Greece's greatest plays are adapted—the tragedy Medea by Euripides and Tania Schrag’s uninhibited rendering of the very bawdy comedy Lysistrata by Aristophanes (the text of which is still censored in many textbooks). Also included is Robert Crumb’s rarely-seen adaptation of James Boswell’s London Journal, filled with philosophical debate and lowbrow debauchery.

Religious literature is well-covered and well-illustrated, with the Books of Daniel and Esther from the Old Testament, Rick Geary’s awe-inspiring new rendition of the Book of Revelation from the New Testament, the Tao te Ching, Rumi’s Sufi poetry, Hinduism’s Mahabharata, and the Mayan holy book Popol Vuh, illustrated by Roberta Gregory. The Eastern canon gets its due, with The Tale of Genji (the world’s first novel, done in full-page illustrations reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley), three poems from China’s golden age of literature lovingly drawn by pioneering underground comics artist Sharon Rudahl, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, a Japanese Noh play, and other works from Asia.

Two of Shakespeare’s greatest plays (King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and two of his sonnets are here, as are Plato’s SymposiumGulliver’s TravelsCandideA Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Renaissance poetry of love and desire, and Don Quixote visualized by the legendary Will Eisner.

Some unexpected twists in this volume include a Native American folktale, an Incan play, Sappho’s poetic fragments, bawdy essays by Benjamin Franklin, the love letters of Abelard and Heloise, and the decadent French classic Dangerous Liaisons, as illustrated by Molly
Crabapple.

 
Edited by Russ Kick, The Graphic Canon is an extraordinary collection that will continue with Volume 2: "Kubla Khan" to the Bronte Sisters to The Picture of Dorian Gray in Summer 2012, and Volume 3: From Heart of Darkness to Hemingway to Infinite Jest in Fall 2012. A boxed set of all three volumes will also be published in Fall 2012.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Kick has assembled an impressive group of more than 100 artists to illustrate, adapt and visually interpret the text…The amount and density of content at first seem overwhelming, but Kick thoughtfully lays the work out for you…[his] preface to each piece introduces us to the artist and coaxes us along with enticing tidbits of unusual information about the original text. Every page sends you further down the rabbit hole, and before you know it, hours have passed…Work that might normally put you to sleep will leave you awe-struck.
—Annie Weatherwax
From the Publisher
"While many of the great graphic books tackle dark subject matter, this ambitious three-volume set is a sheer delight. A huge roster of artists illustrates the Western Canan, including the works of Homer, Shakespeare, the Brontë Sisters, and Hemingway. A visual feast, the collection offers a fresh way of interpreting and appreciating the classics—and might encourage you to pick up a few you've never gotten around to" —Reader's Digest

Read more: http://www.rd.com/slideshows/graphic-novels-for-adults/#ixzz32HtWca8W

“Through the reprinted and newly-produced work of 59 (mainly American) adapters and 58 adapted titles, this is not only a survey of the world’s diverse artistic past, but also a breathtaking glimpse of this young medium’s incredible future.”
Booklist, starred review

“The graphic publishing literary event of the year.”
Publishers Weekly

“This meaty slab is laced with more wit, beauty, social commentary and shock than one might expect. . . If artists, as British sculptor Anish Kapoor famously said, make mythologies, then this volume is genuinely a marriage of equals.”
Kirkus Reviews
 
“The Graphic Canon is absolutely the most ambitious book I've picked up this year.”
Newsday
 
“The Western literary canon has long been debated and criticized by academics, and rightly so. Which books belong and which don't? Now The Graphic Canon, a three-volume series edited by Russ Kick which presents classic lit as comic strips, adds a bit more fuel to the intellectual fires.”
—Steven Heller, The Atlantic 

“These are 500 pages that contain more intelligence, wit, and savvy social commentary than anything else I have read in a long time. It is an amazing work. It is wild. It is dirty at times. It is nothing short of beautiful.”
New Straits Times
 
“The diversity and excellence of this volume is just about overwhelming.”
The Austin Chronicle

“Looks like a must-buy for all academic libraries, many public libraries, and many high schools, and an exciting new benchmark for comics!"
—Martha Cornog, Library Journal

"This is a masterpiece of literary choices as well as art and interpretation. It is a perfect graduation or summer-reading present, and the solid editing, including introductory notes for each piece, makes it a required purchase for any library."
School Library Journal

“It takes time to read this book, but it is a book worth taking time over [...] Robert Berry and Josh Levitas’ adaptation of Shakespeare’s eighteenth sonnet is among the best of the lot. They succeed, not only in doing justice to the original poem, but also, with the illustrations, in adding a kind of meditative short story reflective of the emotion the sonnet conveys.”
— The Comics Journal

“This delightful trove of comics and graphics adapted from and inspired by classic works of literature brings together mostly new works by dozens of contributors, from the legendary (e.g., Will Eisner, Robert Crumb) to newer talents (e.g., Fred Van Lente, Matt Wiegle). The diverse voices include women, Native American, Asian, queer, Jewish, and other creators; the artistic styles run the gamut of experimental to cartoonish to photo-realistic; and the tones of the adaptations range from serious to irreverent. One can imagine many potential audiences for this unique volume, including practitioners in art and design, students of world literatures and/or religious traditions, and instructors who deal with issues of adaptation and translation. Readers will be fascinated to see on display in one volume so many varied approaches to visualizing classic texts, including wordless comics adapting Beowulf and The Tibetan Book of the Dead, a contemporary setting for Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18," a simultaneously textually faithful and visually stunning rendition of The Odyssey, and a lesbian reinterpretation of John Donne’s “The Flea.” Substantial notes on texts, translations, and contributors round out a bargain-priced, must-have title. Summing up: Essential. All readers.”
—Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

Library Journal
This lavish collection spanning four millennia includes 190 literary adaptations organized into three volumes. Besides the expected choices, this first volume's culturally diverse works include a pre-Columbian Incan play, Tang Dynasty verses, a Japanese Noh play, Rumi poetry, and an ingeniously rendered sliver of the Mahabharata. Most of the selections are modest-sized abridgements or excerpts, 80 percent new material and the rest reprints. Quality and artistry all convey the unique flavors of the originals, although not all will appeal to everyone. Perhaps Kick's visual banquet is best appreciated as a seductive howdy-do that could send readers to the originals, or to a longer graphic version. The set also makes an inspiring sampler of graphic innovation for art students and those interested in the comics format. VERDICT The trilogy should occupy a prominent place in all adult graphic novel collections. Note that a few selections (e.g., Lysistrata) are sexually explicit, and high school libraries should carefully evaluate suitability. Perhaps Kick's project will spur substantive quality adaptations of many more literary works, which would further benefit libraries and classrooms.—M.C.
Kirkus Reviews
Classic literature gets desterilized with the help of the modern world's most daring graphic artists. In this first of three volumes, editor Kick (100 Things You're Not Supposed to Know, 2008, etc.), better known for rabble-rousing at Disinfo.com, collects an incredible variety of graphic adaptations of oral tales, plays, essays, sonnets and letters. Starting with The Epic of Gilgamesh and ending with Hamlet, this meaty slab is laced with more wit, beauty, social commentary and shock than one might expect from a book tailor-made for college classrooms. The expected suspects are all here in excerpted or abridged form, including The Odyssey, Beowulf and The Divine Comedy. But there are unexpected entries, too. Tania Schrag turns in a delightfully explicit depiction of the Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes, while Vicki Nerino delivers a raw take on an explicit yarn usually expunged from The Arabian Nights. Noah Patrick Pfarr turns John Donne's "The Flea" into an elaborate lesbian tryst. Robert Crumb does his characteristically bizarre take on James Boswell's London Journal, with high debauchery intact. More unpredictable entries are drawn from Native American folktales, a Japanese play, Chinese poetry and The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Serious treatments are given to King Lear and A Midsummer Night's Dream, not to mention a museum-worthy portrait by Eric Johnson of a minor character from Edmund Spenser's The Fairie Queen. Some of the artistic heavy hitters in this volume include a selection from Seymour Chwast's outstanding adaptation of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Rick Geary's take on the Book of Revelation, Peter Kuper's blistering take on Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and the legendary Will Eisner's view of Don Quixote from his 2003 graphic novel The Last Knight. The infamous Molly Crabapple closes the book with rich portraits of The Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont from Dangerous Liaisons. If artists, as British sculptor Anish Kapoor famously said, make mythologies, then this volume is genuinely a marriage of equals.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609803766
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press
  • Publication date: 5/22/2012
  • Series: Graphic Canon Series
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 933,665
  • Product dimensions: 8.44 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

RUSS KICK's best-selling anthologies, including You Are Being Lied To and Everything You Know Is Wrong, have sold over half a million copies. The New York Times has dubbed Kick "an information archaeologist," Details magazine described Kick as "a Renaissance man," and Utne Reader named him one of its "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World." Russ Kick lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee, and Tucson, Arizona.

From the Boxed Set edition.

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