Every now and then you run into something that changes your perspective on things. At least that’s a hope anyway. I mean, we can’t go through life believing the same things without waver. What would be the point of that? If that were to happen the world would be in a far worse shape than it is. Seriously, what would we have to fight about on the internet without the possibility of change?
Sorry, I am just barely getting started and my mind has started to wander…
The reason we are here today (aside from the strange digressions of my mind) is to look at a book that will make you look at things a bit differently. And when I say book, know that this is clearly a graphic novel. And this is the first part that will throw you off a bit. Because the idea of the novel is a bit lost on this one. See, there are no words to delineate the story anywhere within.
That’s right, Shaun Tan’s The Arrival (Arthur R. Levine Books, 2006) is devoid of words anywhere within the pages of the story. Well, there is some alien gibberish but it is meaningless outside the story for story reasons. So the gist of the book immediately calls into question are assumptions of what a book should be. Is it a picture book, is it a story, just what is it exactly? All of that and so much more. And the next thing that hits us, is because it is a book of nothing but pictures, it must be for kids. That is the next spot that knocks out our assumptions.
In a nutshell, this is an immigrant’s story and the new world he encounters. It is a story of sacrifice and separation. The pictures build a world we must explore with the main character and it is just as strange and different to us as it is to him. We see everything through his perspective.
If all we ever do is take the pictures as interesting art and don’t delve deeper we miss out on a story rich with meaning and complexity that requires multiple passes that uncover deeper nuance each time.
To say that I love this one, I think, doesn’t really give it justice. In a way I feel this is the anti-novel. Not that it goes against the concept of story or anything like that. Instead it is the opportunity to see the world differently. Instead of the novels we read that are entirely words, with this we are moved past the limiting views that mere words allow. We are taken through a journey that is built first on the page and then through our minds, through threads that we must unravel to understand their meanings.
I actually think I could talk in circles for days about this one. And in the process I wouldn’t actually tell you a damn thing that has any substance until you pick it up for yourself. I think it might be time to do just that. Go, find and enjoy this book. “Read” it several times. You’ll find something new every time you do.
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