Friday, October 1, 2010


Grade: G+
Title: Stitches
Author AND Artist: David Smalls

Yes, I am finally back and better than ever (so what if I have 70 conferences with my darling students next week, so what if I have my proposal defense next Friday, so what if I have to take the GRE Subject test next Saturday - life is good)! I am glad to be back, and I am so glad I went and bought this comic. Stitches is a beautiful comic about the life of a young boy (the author) who grows up in a family that doesn't communicate. When he is fourteen he has to have surgery, he thinks to get a minor lump removed but really it is because he has cancer. After he wakes up from the surgery, he finds that he no longer can speak.

On the cover of Stitches, it bears the phrase "a memoir..." Indeed, Stitches is a memoir in the same vein as Running with Scissors. The latter details the very odd life of a young boy who is tossed around because everyone is too selfish to care, which he portrays quite aggressively. In the same way, Stitches mainly focuses on the relationship, or lack there of, of David to his parents. Both of these memoirs, while enjoyable and fascinating, paint an almost painfully pleasant portrayal of the main character. Essentially, they are both too ... not self-righteous, but self-pitying.

Here, David is portraying himself as his father subjects him to his many X-rays. He grew up in the fifties, when they didn't realize the radiation effects X-rays had, and, since he had some trouble breathing and his dad was a radiologist, he received a great number of them when he was quite young. This, quite sadly, causes his cancer, but David finds himself unable to forgive his father for the loss of his voice. Thus, for me the lack of hope and forgiveness (I love art to represent redemption something we all desire to experience at some time) present really limited the power of Stitches. It was too worthy of itself, rendering much of the story unpleasant.

However, both the only element to represent hope of any kind and the redeeming factor in this book is the art. The art is beautiful and even sublime throughout the whole work. Small's choice of using only black and white fits perfectly with his dire, somber story. However, as the story unfolds David realizes that he needs art in order to express himself, which gives him a glimmer of hope. This art also gives him a voice, as his has been taken from him.

With this picture, you can see the beautiful (if a little grotesque, which you should know I kind of love, which is why I am writing my thesis on it) detail Small is able to include, even as he simplifies his lines and is very intentional in what details he does include. The way he doesn't bother to capture a perfectly realistic representation of shadows on his body works because he wants his viewers to be focused on the stitches. This style works amazingly well throughout the entire book, elevating an otherwise dreary memoir into something beautiful and worth reading.

Ultimately, Stitches presents itself as a strong comic worthy of being read. I am glad I own it because the art is luminous and simply divine. I enjoy studying it and mimicking his effective style. However, the story does not sell me, so it might be better to rent it ... really up to you. Until next time; go enjoy art!

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