Swallow Me Whole

by John Holbo on April 13, 2010

Man does not live by making fun of Bryan Caplan’s attempts to argue that women were freer in 1880 alone! Therefore, I see fit to mention that I really liked Nate Powell’s graphic novel Swallow Me Whole. You can check out the preview here – and even buy the book! (Or from Amazon, but cheaper from the publisher in this case.)

Right. Sortakinda spoilers (but not really) under the fold.

It’s a ghost story. Maybe so. Uncanny. Haunted atmosphere. Or not. (Have I spoiled the ending?) And one of the nice things Powell manages to do is preserve that equivocation. Oh, maybe it’s one of the cozy features of your average English ghost story that it fails to do so. The narrator says something like, ‘On my first night in Blackmarrow Abbey I made nothing of the strange scuttling noises that I heard in the walls – probably a rat – nor of the curious, nervous habit the servants had of darting from one pool of light to the next, avoiding the shadows, which flickering gaslight made to pluck at their heels and hems. No doubt the servants were merely anxious on behalf of so many guests, and my senses overstimulated due to overconsumption of green tea that afternoon …’ Well, ok, it isn’t always that bad. Or good, if you like that sort of thing. But ghost stories often have a hard time conjuring an eerie atmosphere while also preserving, for a decent interval, the sense that perhaps it is all nothing. Now read the first pages of Swallow. (I hope you did so already.) What’s with all the tentacles? Just steam rising from the soup? The girl’s hair? A swirly drawing style? Nicely done. Graphic novels really are a very suitable medium for the atmospheric ghost story that may not be.



John Holbo 04.14.10 at 1:38 am

Sniff. No one wants to talk about comics. What a world. what a world.


Colin Danby 04.14.10 at 4:13 am

Maybe we’re just overwhelmed by the awesomeness of Bryan Caplan’s graphic novel. I hear they’re planning a book event.

Seriously, I wish I knew how to read these things. I understand old-fashioned comics, but I feel like there are several missing terms between those and the Powell book.


David 04.14.10 at 5:29 am

Could this have been published in 1880?


Martha Maus 04.16.10 at 7:56 am

I am always a bit scared that I will be too hard on graphic novels. Really cartoonish drawings are safe but attempts at more lifelike or ,perhaps, at real art, embarrass me if the talent is not there. So I play it safe. Just as I avoid most plays unless staged by the under 5’s.

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