Friday, November 13, 2009


Small, David. Stitches. New York: Norton Publishing, 2009.

Children's book illustrator David Small published his memoir covering his troubled past with his family. At times funny, and often heart-breaking, the book spans his life from six years until his mother dies while he was in college.

This is the latest in a long line of graphic memiors: see, for example, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Blankets by Craig Thompson, Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse, and, of course the Grandfather of all graphic novels, Maus by Art Spiegelman. Like the others before him, Small lived a traumatic life that informs the art of the book. Huge gray and black splotches leak out of the frame, the lines of the images and, at times, comprise the entire page. The adults in his life loom huge with blank eyes, behind translucent glasses. There were few smiles on the pages, and probably in his life.

Unlike the others, though, Small was not as reflective about his own faults in the novel, and his parents became flat, demonized charactures over the course of the novel. Granted their treatment of some events in his life were deplorable, and his life was no cake walk, but the Small never raises any questions about his own responsibility in his life. This is what makes Maus and Persepolis so engaging: both Spiegelman and Satrapi allow their parents to be flawed individuals, but also notice that the artist/author also in an imperfect subject. It would have been nice for Small to realize that his silence and passive-aggressive behavior, especially later in life, is what continued the spiral of negative behavior.

Artistically, this book is worth a look. Thematically, there are better books available.

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