Utne Blogs > Literature

Walden Pond, Graphic-Novel-Style

 by Julie Hanus


Tags: books and publishers, graphic novels, Thoreau at Walden, John Porcellino, Henry David Thoreau, Center for Cartoon Studies, Hyperion, transcendentalism,

Thoreau at WaldenJohn Porcellino, the quirky cartoonist-writer-illustrator behind King Cat Comics, has gone and compacted Walden, Thoreau’s magnum opus, into a tidy graphic novel. Presented by the Center for Cartoon Studies and published through Hyperion, Thoreau at Walden is, well, damn cool: Porcellino’s simple, straightforward style uncannily complements pared-down text from the transcendental philosopher himself. It’s a distillation, yes, but a refreshing, artistic, insightful one—and (in the most pedestrian of reactions) reading it made me want to instantly recommend it to any student ever tempted to grab for those proverbial CliffsNotes, in addition to fans, obviously, of graphic novels, Thoreau, or Porcellino.

billy_1
6/18/2008 9:16:04 PM

Thanks for the respectful reply, but I still can't buy into it. Much as I'd like to sit "in silent contemplation along with Thoreau" - The man's DEAD. Has been for ages. I know there's tons of comic book fans that would like to see the medium cross the threshold into 'high art', but it ain't gonna happen. Although I'm sure Mr. Porcellino's "Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man" is a gripping and lushly illustrated narrative. And then there's this whole attitude that us unwashed masses should sit back and let 'the creative people' interpret things on our behalf since they've got such vision and talent. I much prefer to let the words form images in my own mind's eye, rather than having some uppity cartoonist draw it out for me.


julie hanus
6/16/2008 9:44:58 AM

Oh, I’d respectfully disagree, Billy. Not about the state of the public school system—there are profound troubles there, to be sure—but Porcellino’s adaptation isn’t a “picture book,” and the point isn’t to dumb down literature to get people to read it. I hope my quip about CliffsNotes didn’t lead you to that conclusion. (If you ask me, the preponderance of students relying on those is the “sad” thing, or one of them, at least.) I’ve read Walden, and now I’ve read Thoreau at Walden, and I enjoyed them both. Porcellino’s graphic novel is elegant—it allows for entire panels without text, inviting the reader into silent contemplation along with Thoreau. And if people happen to read it before reading the original, perhaps they’ll be inspired to pick up the real thing.


billy_1
6/15/2008 10:15:10 PM

Unfortunately, this is the state of affairs in America: Our public education system is so bad that we have to turn literature into picture books to get people to read it. Sad.