Thursday, January 20, 2005

Unbounded

Ways in which Rachel Hartman's Amy Unbounded: Belondweg Blossoming is superior to Edith Grossman's translation of Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote in hardcover:

It slips into a purse or shopping bag for easy transport.

In a pinch you can even curl it up and jam it into your coat pocket.

Cool guys scope you out on the metro cuz you're reading a "graphic novel."

You could "perform" excerpts of Don Quixote to great effect for a toddler audience, but it's much easier to flip open to any page of Amy and point at the pictures to make a toddler beam.

As an added bonus it provides the toddler a study of facial expression, and inspires the use of funny voices.

The phrase "PANTALOONS OF DOOM!"

A manageable 201 pages of cartoon text versus 940 pages of dense prose.

There's a map!

You never find yourself questioning the integrity of the translation.

Women! Strong, smart, defiant ones bonding in the kitchen and banded together in sisterhood!

If you have to leave off for a time, and return only to discover you've lost your place, the pictures are a handy guide to setting you back on course.

Would you rather identify with a 9-year-old girl who's research assistant to a dragon or some crazy-ass knight charging windmills?

Well, that last one's a toughie, but note the official seal on the Amy cover: "Approved For Everyday Use." I'm not sure Don Quixote would qualify.


Amy of Eddybrook. © Rachel Hartman. Posted by Hello

I'm in awe that such depth of character can be revealed in a comic. Every individual in Amy's world has a story, relatively straightforward but with vast implications. The simplicity of the drawing and the telling helps lay bare the complexity of the relationships of all involved. The epic of Amy that summer is the dawning of her awareness.

Linda Medley's introduction compares Amy to Jo March, spirited and independent, on the verge of growing up. Amy's a really sweet and smart kid, and she's figuring stuff out. Boys, social dynamics in general, the place of women in this fictional medieval society, dragons. I laughed out loud plenty. (I can't believe I cried too.)

It's comedy and tragedy. Like real life, there are no real beginnings or endings. Amy is the 9-year-old girl inside all of us, looking at the world with fresh eyes and seeing it very clearly.

Regarding the author, according to one source:
"For two years she did a comic strip called "Ellen of Troy" and enjoyed it so much that she decided to forgo a million-dollar career in Comparative Literature in favor of living in her grandma's attic and drawing comics."

Review.

Interview with the author.
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