Monday, May 3, 2010

So That's Where This Came From

I've been trying to catch up on my graphic novel reading the last few months. Besides being an admirer of drawing, I really appreciate the story telling style of graphic novels in that they are picture books for older people. Two weekends ago, I read Book I and II of Yoshikazu Yasuhiko's Joan of Arc series. I have a strange relationship with these books that I thought I would share...I think it gives a sort insight to how a writer's mind functions and why we are such odd people, for the most part.

I first saw these books way back in the early months of 2002 on the shelves of NYPL's Teen Central. I was there to do a reading from Pure Sunshine. We arrived early and I browsed their graphic novel section and was drawn to these books because ever since I was 11 or so, I've been fascinated with Joan of Arc. I immediately ordered these books a few days later, though for whatever reason never got around to reading them until now.

When I first glimpsed the covers, I immediately recalled these drawings I'd made of Joan of Arc when I was 13 or so. Like writing, drawing is something I self-taught and was petrified to share with anyone as a young teenager. But I remember these Joan of Arc pencil drawings being some of the first that I was really proud of. It was an interesting memory and I wondered if I could work it in my writing somehow.

At that time, I was just starting to work on my novel Perfect World. I could easily see how the main character Lacie would be drawn to a figure like Joan of Arc. I not only worked my own memory into her character, but also the rediscovery of it which stemmed from seeing the book in the library.

The librarian keeps looking at me . . pushing her glasses up on her nose and clearing her throat each time I begin to use the eraser . . narrowing her eyes at the crumbs that I brush away onto my lap . . onto the floor of the school library. I call it a library but last year they changed the name of it to Media Center when they put in new computers and more televisions and took away most of the books because no one wanted to read them I guess. I don't mind making a mess in a Media Center . . there is nothing that makes it special like a library.

Some books are still here though. This one is . . the one of Joan of Arc with all the old drawings in it that I like to copy.

I've copied most of them already . . but this one I can't get right. The three dead people hanging in an open filed . . the clouds so beautiful and the fields of wheat so peaceful that the bodies look like angels and that is why I copy them . . that is why I copy all the pictures from the book . . because they're beautiful and she is so beautiful. Sometimes I like to think she was like me . . the way she lived with ghosts and talked to them . . made her different. I know I'm different. But maybe I can be brave and beautiful too.

-That's really cool. You're good.- A strangers voice beside me . . near me so close and sitting down across from me.

I cover up the picture. I fold my hands over the piece of paper and let the pencil drop.
from Perfect World pages 199-200

In many ways, I've always thought the writer's brain has to work on a type of collage circuitry. We piece minor events and feelings together and layer them into a cohesive picture. In addition to the Joan of Arc images, the Media Center bit comes from my own High School, the drawing of the three hanging figures is another drawing I did when I was 15 or so. And the stranger...well that's Chan from the book I'd written previously Tomorrow, Maybe.

So you can see why it becomes imperative to always have a notebook in the pocket. Any tiny memory can be a spark. As for the graphic novels, they weren't as much about Joan as I would have liked and the art was less my style than the cover would indicate, but they were entertaining.

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