Friday, September 2, 2011

Week 30: Asterios Polyp, by David Mazzucchelli

This book was my book club’s most recent selection. I was really looking forward to it, because it’s our club’s first graphic novel choice. We have a pretty relaxed book club, and I’m proud to say that we’ve read a lot of different types of books, from autobiographies to historical accounts to short stories. I’m not very well-read when it comes to graphic novels, but I enjoy them, and my intrigue peaked when I’d heard that this one had taken ten years to finish. Asterios Polyp is the main character of this story. He’s an architecture professor abruptly uproots his life when his apartment burns down. He gets on a Greyound bus and sets out for a small town called Apogee, where he meets a friendly car mechanic named Stiff. Stiff is kind enough to let Asterios stay with him and his wife and young son. As the story unfolds, we learn more about Asterios and his past. Through flashbacks of sorts, the reader is introduced to Asterios’ ex-wife, Hana, and we see the progression of their relationship. It is also revealed that Asterios had a twin brother who died at birth. Although Asterios is in a very different environment in this small town, his character is illuminated by these peeks into his earlier life. He isn’t all that likable – watching the decline of his marriage makes that clear. There’s a palpable sadness in observing how his initial love and happiness with Hana slowly dissolves. The author adeptly captures the feeling of watching a relationship slip away, something most people can understand. His lost twin figures heavily into the story, and one might wonder if Asterios can ever overcome his feeling of being incomplete. The book’s greatest strength is its illustration. It’s very clever. Unyielding, unemotional Asterios is portrayed in linear blue strokes, bringing to mind a blueprint. Hana, and artist, is often drawn with sketchy, cross-hatched lines. All of the characters have different fonts for their own dialogue, creating visual voices for each of them. It’s obvious that a lot of thought went into the rendering of these pages. The story dredges up themes from philosophy and Greek mythology, and there is a lot to chew on. I think it would take multiple readings to absorb most of the content of the book. I definitely enjoyed it.


  1. This is a great read, perfect showcase for what can be accomplished with the sequential art form that other media wouldn't be able to achieve. The story is emotionally deep while every aspect of the artwork and design adds layer upon layer to the book. Recommended for anyone that likes graphic novels, smart design, or just good, thoughtful reads. Enjoy!