Friday, February 24, 2012

Comic Review: Chicken with Plums

Came across this one in the school library and, while I had seen some of Marjane Satrapi's other work in the school booksore (other than Persepolis I mean), I hadn't had a chance to read any of it and I was curious to see how she tackled a non-autobiographical story. Turns out this one is still semi-biographical (my copy of the book didn't have any blurbs on it so I didn't realize this until about halfway through) so I'll have to keep looking if I want to see how she does with a work of complete fiction.

Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi
Summary: Nasser Ali Kan, Satrapi's great-uncle, is a renowned tar player and his crushed when his wife breaks his tar. Unable to cope or find a tar to match his he instead decides to die by starving for eight days.

The Good: It's a rather slim book but manages to have a lot of back story (and what-happened-next) on quite a few characters which surprised me. The story also has a clear beginning, middle, and end, although it is told a bit out of order, so structurally it works just fine. Like Persepolis it's interesting to see stories set during one of Iran's more unstable periods and the setting certainly had an affect on the story.

The Bad: This story unfortunately reminded me a lot of the literary fiction I had to read for my upper level English classes in high school, a sad, "deep," story about a man having a midlife crisis that involves death. Perhaps I'm still too young to really appreciate these stories, that is entirely possible, but I couldn't connect with Kan at all. I do understand to an extent the effect his tar being broken had on him but I just couldn't see why his only course was to kill himself afterwords. The story just wasn't able to show me why this was important, even when it showed Kan's backstory, and left me feeling rather frustrated when the story was over.  

The Art: The art remains unchanged from Satrapi's style at the end of Persepolis and it works. It's still fairly simplistic, pure black and white in a stark, almost graphic style which works for the story but I don't think adds much to it. This story does work better in comic form but I didn't feel like the art drew me further into the story or gave me a greater understanding of it, it was simply there and doing it's job.

In the end I was simply frustrated by this story. I couldn't connect with Fan at all, found nearly every character to be unlikable, and just didn't get anything out of the story. At least it was short so I didn't feel like I wasted a lot of time on it.