Tuesday, December 20, 2011


What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Embroideries (Pantheon, 2005).

About the best that I can say about Embroideries, which I suppose you could label a "graphic novella" by Marjane Satrapi, is that I don't think I've ever read anything laid out in this fashion before. It has elements of being a comic to it, but if the artist's simple and endearing artwork in Persepolis occasionally threatened to dissolve into unconnected lines and polygons, this goes further to the edge. This book doesn't even have panel borders, and while most of the pages have two or more drawings on them, connected by the narration and dialogue, it doesn't look at all like any comic I've ever seen. I like this a lot.

The story is about little kaffeeklatsches that Satrapi and her grandmother enjoyed in Tehran, "ventilations of the heart" where they gossiped behind all the absent friends' backs about sex. It is an occasionally amusing look at the sex lives of Iranian women, from the ones in control to the so hopelessly conservative that they've never seen their husbands naked.

Briefly, then, it is an unusual topic, told with frank candor and in an agreeably unusual format. It's probably not a book that I will return to very often, and not one that really generated much enthusiasm or inspiration, but certainly a book that I enjoyed reading. Recommended with minor reservations.

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