[a] time capsule of how desperate and deranged 2018 can make any of us
July 31, 2018 10:31 AM   Subscribe

(Mild spoilers in all links) Nick Drnaso's Sabrina is the first graphic novel to ever be nominated for the Man Booker Prize. From the Guardian article by Rachel Cooke: Sabrina, which has already drawn extraordinary advance praise – Zadie Smith describes it as a masterpiece that combines all the political power of a polemic with the “delicacy of truly great art” – could not be more prescient if it tried. Its narrative touches with perfect ease on such contemporary matters as fake news, the isolation of the digital age, conspiracy theories and gun control... Review by fellow graphic novelist Chris Ware (The Guardian). Interview with Nick Drnaso (Vulture). Excerpt from Sabrina (Drawn and Quarterly).

Post title is from the last line of this Chicago Reader review by Mark Peters.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl (6 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I just read this this weekend, and I was deeply affected by it. It was the first thing I've read in years that gave me nightmares I woke up from and then returned to as soon as I went back to sleep. If you're up for reading something about numbness and confusion in the face of horrible national tragedies, disentegrating families, lives, and societies, emotional emptiness, toxic conspiracy theory culture, murdered women, and 9/11... Read this. Despite some notes of emotional recovery near the end, I'm still carrying this story around days later. It's intense.
posted by Rinku at 10:52 AM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wow. I just asked my local comic store if they have it/can get it.
posted by kalessin at 11:42 AM on July 31, 2018

I was thinking that I would wait until this comes out in paperback, but now I might go ahead and get it in hardcover. I certainly liked Drnaso's Beverly quite a lot.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:02 PM on July 31, 2018

Can I ask an uncomfortable question? Is this story just another in a long line of "let's explore men's pain by having a woman be hurt?" however well written? It's such a painful and poisonous trope and I'm so tired of seeing male authors praised for it.

I'm just really tired of art prioritizing the experiences of men. And nothing underlines that like literary works where a woman's actual death or suffering is merely a way of exploring the lives of the truly important people, men.
posted by emjaybee at 8:41 PM on July 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

Minor spoilers.

On one hand, emjaybee, yeah, it's a story that spends more time with men than women and the inciting incident is a woman's death. It's not a great trope.

On the other hand, the story isn't all about sad men, and probably the major theme in the story is all about examining the sick ways in which male-centered groups disbelieve and warp women's tragedies to fit them into conspiratorial worldviews. Multiple major character in the story, including a woman, are bullied by thinly veiled Alex Jones types who think Sabrina's death is a deep state hoax. Her murder is not shown to the reader, but I didn't feel it was to gloss over her suffering so much as to focus on the ripples of fallout her death had on the world. To the extent the story focusses on sad men, I felt like it was more to show how our modern context has failed to give them the tools to be fully realized people, and that they have no idea to do emotional labor.

So, yes: it fits into a bad trope. But I didn't finish it feeling like it minimized women's suffering, or that it glorified men over women in any way. It's just about bleakness, and emptiness, and people hurting each other out of sadness and confusion. I don't think it has to be required reading for anyone, but I did feel like the culture we live in had been shown to me in a clear eyed, laserlike way, and I recommend it.
posted by Rinku at 9:55 PM on July 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'd been trying to pick this up since seeing this thread about it -- amazon's had it on back-order for a while -- and finally just bit the bullet and purchased it digitally

to follow up on Rinku's well-put words, the focus on the men in the story is not really about focusing on their pain per se; it's about the poison of male privilege when it turns angry and frustrated, about the terror of humanity's pattern-seeking behavior when unleashed in the age of the Internet and mass shootings, about failures to communicate or cope and how things fester within that failure.

teddy is a man-child whose inability to un-shatter his psyche is far more static and uninteresting than Sandra's (pointedly contrasted) willful struggle to name and understand what's happened to her sister and what is happening to her (making it even more clear what she means when she calls out teddy); calvin's most cowardly and shitty moments all come as a result of his fear of/discomfort with genuine emotional engagement, and his estranged wife calls him out on it

(and some of the book's best moments I thought were small peripheral ones to reinforce this point -- the man standing up to speak in a designated emotional safe space for people wrestling with trauma to say some inane shit about how his boss chastises him for working too hard and how he's the "comic relief" in his office; the drunk man in the motel at the end who either cannot or will not listen to his partner about what a shithead he's being. but also of course the AF questionnaire which exists to allow people to erect and maintain emotional walls, the disorientation of the where's waldo imitations that have no clear purpose or objective amid the chaos, etc etc)

I'm looking forward to rereading and thinking through the visual structure of it in more detail -- I loved how many full pages were just sequences of small, wordless panels, letting visual information and silence itself drive the emotions and the narrative. worked really well for a story that is so much about emotional inaccessibility.

anyway this is a great book; not an easy or pleasant read, but an extremely compelling and well-executed one
posted by Kybard at 7:01 AM on August 15, 2018

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