Note: This blog post is written for SLIS 672 at IU, Spring 2013
This week, we read Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle. It is a travel narrative graphic novel about the author’s two month stay in North Korea where he worked for an animation company. To be frank, I did not really enjoy it. Hopefully I will enjoy Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City more… I’ve heard better things about that one.
I read a few of my classmates’ posts and saw that many of them also had issues with the book. Some people had issues with the author himself and his judgmental view of North Korea. I definitely see their point, but honestly my main issue with this graphic novel is that I was bored. I thought getting a glimpse into North Korea would be interesting, but I had to force myself to get through the book. I realize that this is a memoir, but I felt like there was no plot. It all took place in North Korea, but otherwise I did not see an overall cohesiveness or plot line. I cannot help but compare it to Persepolis since they are both memoirs and just think about how far superior Persepolis is. Granted, Persepolis covers the author’s life from childhood into adulthood whereas this is two months.
Despite my misgivings of the book, there are a few things I enjoyed about it. Firstly, I liked Delisle’s art style. It was very cartoon-y and simplistic. That always makes a graphic novel feel more accessible to me. Especially when it is about a topic I know barely anything about (I wonder if I would have enjoyed this book more though had I known more about North Korea. I did mention in class that one reason I really enjoyed Persepolis was because I already had information about some of the events and people).
Secondly, I did enjoy the parts where he visited different places/monuments. This is a travel story after all, so it was nice to learn about some of the important buildings there. For example, he visited the Juche Tower, the Arc de Triomphe of Pyongyang, and the Ryugyong Hotel. I liked seeing his depictions of these places, and it made me want to find more information about them.
In other news, this week is Will Eisner Week! Publishers Weekly posted an article, Will Eisner Week to Celebrate the Graphic Novel, about this special week. In the article, they quote Danny Fingeroth, Will Eisner Week Organizing Committee Chair: “This year, we will be having Will Eisner Week celebrations in more places than ever before. The people doing the events are planning some amazing happenings that will spread the word about how cool graphic novels are, and that celebrate Will Eisner’s astonishing body of work done over a career that spanned seven decades.” The theme of the week is “Read a Graphic Novel.” So congrats class! We can all claim we celebrated Will Eisner week because we all read a graphic novel this week!