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Chicken With Plums    by Marjane Satrapi order for
Chicken With Plums
by Marjane Satrapi
Order:  USA  Can
Pantheon, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

Marjane Satrapi's comic art talent has been heralded as on a par with legends such as Art Spiegelman and Will Eisner. For those doubtful of her talents, Chicken With Plums will support its strength. In a mere 84 pages, Satrapi seduces her audience with an anecdotal-filled narrative whose essence considers the idea of inspiration and life. Of course, like her other works, her tale is speckled with humor, irony, love, and sadness.

Fed up with Nassir Ali Kan's obsession with his beloved tar (an Iranian percussion instrument akin to a guitar), his wife Nahid breaks it, thereby severing Nassir's connection to the world around him. The famous musician has lost his tool to inspire the masses and cannot find a replacement. He searches throughout Iran but to no avail. Finally on a November night in 1958, he realizes that he will never again be capable of making the beautiful music he once did. Believing his life without his tar is no life at all, he lies down in his bed and decides to die. By the eight day of this protest, Nassir does indeed die. But no, that doesn't spoil the ending since readers come to all of this by the seventeenth page of this graphic novel. The ensuing chapters follow Nassir through his external and internal wanderings on each of those eight days. His journey brings him through the past and present, and even to the future.

Yet, don't be mistaken for this is no Christmas Carol. There is no return for Nassir and the chance to redeem himself has long since passed. This is a passive ascent into death that considers meaning and human drive in ways to which readers may not be accustomed. Satrapi's underlining question looks at the idea of the muse and how can one go on with meaning when the muse has been lost or compromised. In the case of Nassir, he cannot renew his hope and thus must leave this world.

Of course, there is more going on here than just Nassir and his main narrative. Though this story is taken from Satrapi's past (Nassir was her great uncle), she still uses tangential anecdotes to deliver a wide array of commentary about society and culture, whether Iranian or American.

Satrapi's black and white panels maintain a stylistic consistency throughout, whether she is using drawings on a black background or black drawing on white. Very little decoration or picturesque backgrounds will be found in this book. But what's most striking - and can be seen on the cover - is the presentation of the human body and clothing. Not that Satrapi's drawings are particularly detailed, but she reserves details for the character faces and gesture, not their clothing or anything else in the panel. Often, readers will find the middle shots with detailed hands and faces while the clothing itself is more abstract. Occasionally, it even looks like character's heads are just attached to some black or white blob indicating clothing.

Satrapi's tale, though based on true events, reads more like an allegory that readers will enjoy about the purpose of life. With some great side-stories and flashbacks, this book provides many different pieces, most of which make the reader consider the world in new frames.

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