October 31, 2013

Book Rec: The Professor’s Daughter, by Joann Sfar & Emmanuel Guibert


That would be graphic book rec, or if you prefer fabulous comic book rec.*

. . . Oh heavens, how do I try to tell you what a hoot it is, and how adorable?  Especially when my head is going bang bang bang as the inevitable result of two and a half hours in a dentist’s chair today.**  Well I can start by saying that it’s perfect reading for lying on a sofa with an assortment of hellcritters and a sore head***.

A charming young Victorian woman, whose famous father is an archaeologist, wants to go for a walk in Kensington Park, but has no chaperon.  Being an enterprising sort, she fishes one of her father’s mummies out of his sarcophagus, dresses him in tails and a top hat, and drags him outdoors.  They listen to Mozart.  They take tea.

They fall in love.†

Mayhem ensues.††

One warning:  the plot, such as it is, is very, very, very ridiculous, and for pity’s sake don’t expect consistency or for all the loose flapping bits to be tied up before the end.  Once you’ve got your seatbelt on—and your rational intellect sent off to read Schopenhauer†††—you’ll be fine.  But I spent the first several pages going, Wha’?  Wha’?  I don’t read much illustrated storytelling and am not used to the tropes.  It’s okay, I went back and reread the beginning.  But I hope you won’t have to.

I loved the drawing—Queen Victoria alone is worth the price of admission‡—and the text is full of divine one-liners.  I usually figure that anything in the first few pages doesn’t count as a spoiler but in a very short graphic novel, um.  However . . .  our mummy gets drunk on his tea:  ‘ . . . I’ve had neither food nor drink in thirty-two centuries . . .’  While he’s sleeping it off he dreams of his children, and they guess he wants to marry the pretty lady.  Maybe her father won’t agree to it, he says.  Why wouldn’t the lady’s father agree? they ask.  ‘Because I’m dead and it’s just not done,’ he replies.

A word here also for the translator, Alexis Siegel, who must have had a hell of a time in both the good and the bad way.

Go for it.

http://us.macmillan.com/theprofessorsdaughter-1/JoannSfar ‡‡

* * *

* I’ve never quite become friendly with the ‘graphic novel’ or, since they’re not always fiction, ‘graphic literature’ terminology.  Having spent my entire professional life being whacked around by one or another genre label^ I feel that graphic literature sounds like an attempt to civilise something that at its best is often enthusiastically and energetically uncivilised.^^  But I admit I don’t know fiddlesticks about that corner of the publishing world, so I may be tilting at non-existent windmills about this.

^ When are you going to write/have you ever written a real book?

^^ A bit like F&SF, for example.  Or what the Victorians did to fairy tales when they decided to dumb them down for kids.

** Yes.  Shorter than predicted.  He didn’t finish.  Moan.

*** Even if the need to keep the youngest of the party firmly trapped in place was not ideal in these circumstances

† Well of course.

†† Well of course.

††† Rikke

Schopenhauer at one point uses the example that in case of a child’s death a woman with a lesser intellectual capacity will suffer less than a woman with a developed intellect.

 The point being that the analysis and understanding of death and its consequences enhances the pain far beyond the mere acute animalistic pain. Thus the higher evolved the intellect the more the suffering. . . .

I’m afraid this chiefly makes me want to climb in my trusty time machine and race back through the centuries so that I can rip Schopenhauer’s head off and give it back to him on a platter with an apple in its mouth.  Of all the . . .

And just by the way I observe that it’s apparently only the woman who grieves?  Presumably there had been a dad involved in this situation?  Presumably men are pure intellect and don’t stoop to mere weak mortal grief at all?  Grrrrrrrr.

Note that I hated Philosophy 101 in college.  Just for reasons like these.  My [male] professors weren’t overly fond of me either.

‡ Although once I got my seatbelt on, the one place I was thrown out of the story again was by reference to Queen Victoria’s corgis.  It’s not Queen Victoria who has corgis.^

^ Okay, it’s a joke, fine.  Don’t joke about DOGS.

‡‡ And it’s totally cool to have a book rec about a thirty-two-hundred-year-old mummy named Imhotep on Halloween.  Eat your heart out, Boris Karloff.  Or Arnold Vosloo, for that matter.


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