Posts Tagged ‘asterios polyp’

Asterios Polyp and the Function of Form

Back when I was a hard-working student, I took two very different classes. One was high school biology, and the other was on James Joyce. I got through the former by remembering one of the life sciences’ simplest platitudes: Form equals function. I got through the latter by pretending I understood what that meant when applied to literature.

Ulysses is the ultimate example of form overwhelming plot—of the how of the story transcending the what. Not quite coincidentally, it’s also widely considered the greatest novel of the 20th century.

Enter David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp. The aim of this 344-page graphic novel is in many ways similar to Joyce’s in Ulysses: Mazzucchelli attempts to tell the story of his eccentrically named title character in a manner that reveals more about him that straight words or illustrations ever could. Asterios’ tale isn’t just what he says or how he says it; it’s also how Mazzucchelli portrays Asterios’ words and actions.

Of course, this is a little easier to do in a graphic medium than a strictly textual one. Mazzucchelli takes full advantage of that by giving each of his characters their own individual style. For instance:

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