Friday, April 10, 2009

Will Eisner's New York - Life in the big city

The top annual award in the comic book industry is called the Eisner Awards, having just read this compilation of some of Will Eisner's works, it is easy to see why they would name it so. The stories in this graphic novel are very good, though they are not, for the most part what I would consider, happy stories. I have been meaning to read some of Will Eisner's graphic novels for awhile but have kept putting it off, which I'm sort of sad I did (only sort of because if I had read them before I probably would have read something else, probably of inferior quality and less memory inducing, instead now).

The stories in this graphic novel all, as the title would suggest, revolve around New York City. I've never been to New York city but do live near a large city and have been to other large cities. All large cities have quite a bit in common. Of the original graphic novels that comprise this book, I can relate to the first one, the Big City, the most. In the first book Will Eisner makes good use of everyday things.

Here are some of the things mentioned in the book and my own personal stories about the things:
*Grated air shafts - Every single time I have gone anywhere near one of them I feel I will drop something down into them, even though I never have. This feeling persists even when I have nothing on me that I could drop.
*Stoops - While I would rarely sit on the stoop and watch the world go by, when I was younger I spent countless hours playing stoop ball (tossing a rubber ball at the stoop and then catching it).
*Subway - I've been on subways before, though the nearest large city doesn't have much of a subway. It does have a couple rail lines but they are mostly above ground and not in convenient placement for where I want to go. I generally took the buses and walked mostly, didn't have a car and quite often had to walk significant distances because the buses didn't go where I needed them to.
*Trash - There is a maxim: "One person's trash is another's treasure". This is somewhat true. I've seen people take things out of the trash, I've even done it myself (for example I found some video games in the trash and sold them). There are even people called freegans who mostly out of anti-consumerism dumpster dive for items and food. I can agree with them that most of my society is extremely wasteful but it is not a life style I would willingly choose. I have never dug through the trash for food but eating food that's past the sell by date doesn't bother me in the least. I have purchased close dated food, even past dated foods on occasion (things like cereal which will last a long time beyond the sell by date) for a reduced price. I also occasionally shop thrift stores (though the prices at them have been going up).
*Street Performers - I've rarely seen street performers. When I went to Toronto I saw quite a few but the nearest big city does not have very many.
*Decibel - In the snippet it has a loud person in a library, loud people in the library annoy me.
*Hydrant - This story shows a person who has to bring water from a hydrant via bucket to her house. I've done similar, though for me it was from a neighbor and not a fire hydrant.
*Mail box - An annoying thing is most of the mailboxes have disappeared. There used to be a mailbox on the street corner, now if I want to mail something I have to take it to the post office (or hand it to the postal worker).
*Observer - This mini story annoyed me a lot because I dislike people like them. In the mini story a couple see a crime and rather than report it or do something they decide to do nothing because it would inconvenience them to do something.
*The old neighborhood - A person goes to look at the place they grew up and find it to be very different. I can easily relate to this since I've done a similar thing and seen the neighborhood I grew up in much changed, for example an apartment I lived in for a while is now boarded up and condemned.

There are some things about the city I feel the book is missing. For example: drug dealers. A book on a big city should have had them. I can't imagine a big city without them since I've been offered drugs since at least the third grade and even moving did not cause them to disappear, heck when I went to Toronto I was stopped by a stranger who asked me for some drugs.

While the other three graphical novels included in this book are interesting they don't inspire as many memories. The second one in the book is called the Building and follows lives of four ghosts who are connected to the building. It's mainly about how a building has tales to tell. I suppose this is true but I never really had much of an association with a building, probably because I moved several times and never really liked most of the places I lived. The buildings I lived in undoubtedly had stories that could be told about them, one of them for example had several people hang themselves in the basement but I don't know them.

The third graphic novel in the book, called City People Notebook, is about how behavioral changes caused by living in the big city. Major environmental factors that characterize the city are: Time, Smell, Rhythm, and Space. I know I dislike rushing to get to a place on time only to find out that it wasn't necessary like the first mini story in this part of the book. I also remember how daytime was very different from night time. Lots of smells in the city, the smell I most easily remember is that of a plastic plant that stunk the entire neighborhood up.

The last graphic novel that comprises this collection is Invisible people. I can most relate to the first story in this section entitled Sanctum. This story is pretty damn sad. In this story a person has made himself so unnoticed/unnoticeable that people hardly notice him. It gets to the point that he is accidentally listed as dead in the newspaper which causes him all kinds of problems resulting in him actually dying. The most sad thing is that this could actually happen. People have been declared dead when they weren't before; list of premature obituaries.

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