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This Book Contains Graphic Language: Comics As Literature    by Rocco Versaci order for
This Book Contains Graphic Language
by Rocco Versaci
Order:  USA  Can
Continuum, 2007 (2008)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

While newspapers and media say time and time again that comics can be taken seriously now that Comic Book X has come out, comic scholars have been hard at work for well over a generation providing in-depth and nuanced discussions about the nature of comics and their importance. This Book Contains Graphic Language is a continuation of this dialogue and not the first to make the statement that comics are literature. However, Versaci makes an interesting and powerful argument about the specific genres and means by which comics can operate as literature.

Versaci's method is to utilize several influential and powerful comic texts to highlight the ways in which comic art can be just as communicative as literature. However, Versaci takes it a step further, often claiming how in some instances, comic art can provide an even more powerful means of rendering information in memoirs, journalism, war narratives, and the almighty real literature. His endeavors prove strikingly successful as he connects new and old ideas and articulates exactly how comics fit well into all of this.

For instance, he begins his discussion on comic journalism with the debacle around James Frey and then launches into the New Journalism movement and its early pioneers, including Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and the works of others such as Hunter Thompson and Norman Mailer. From here, he looks at journalistic pieces within comics that are in many senses derived from these earlier writers. Works such as Joe Sacco's Palestine and Ted Rall's To Afghanistan and Back reflect similar style, skill, methods of communication, and impact on a level that is just as powerful. Though comic artists are often derided less for not always being perfectly true, this is a prickly problem. Comics aren't held to the same standard of truth as journalists or writers like Frey, because they are valued less in US culture.

Overall, this is a powerful piece of academic (and evidently personal) work for the medium. It is also quite accessible to the lay reader. Educators would be smart to pick up This Book Contains Graphic Language to help them better utilize comics in the classroom.

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