Graphic Novels from Paolo Bacilieri and Gareth Brookes | Xpress Reviews

Week ending June 30, 2017

Bacilieri, Paolo. Fun: Spies, Puzzle Solvers, and a Century of Crosswords. First Second. Jun. 2017. 296p. tr. from Italian by Jamie Richards. ISBN 9781910593257. $24.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Italian creator Bacilieri (Napoleone; The Supermaso Attitude) has produced a work that changes in style and format from beginning to end and is full of literary, pop culture, and historical allusions. Part fiction and part history, it tells of Professor Quester, who chronicles the origins of the crossword puzzle from pre-1900 to the current day, detailing its movement outward from its beginnings in New York City newspapers. Including political activist groups, which may or may not exist, the story then veers into tales of the members of the avant-garde European movement Oulipo. The narrative walks the line between fact and flights of fancy, embracing the crossword’s role internationally and citing naming conventions and variations over time in different languages.
Verdict For Bacilieri, playing a crossword is clearly a literary act. Fun will appeal to those who enjoy crossword puzzles and those who appreciate the history of games using word associations.—Jesse A. Lambertson, Georgetown Univ. Libs., Washington, DC

Brookes, Gareth. A Thousand Coloured Castles. Pennsylvania State Univ. (Graphic Medicine). Aug. 2017. 208p. ISBN 9780271079271. $22.95. HEALTH
Award winner Brookes (The Black Project) takes readers on a journey into the lives of people with Charles Bonnet syndrome. For many, what presents itself as a mental health problem is actually a condition resulting from a loss of sight that causes the brain to fill in one’s vision with selective memories. Here, Myriam has started seeing strange things that no one else sees. These hallucinations are examples of what can manifest during the severe progression of macular degeneration. Typically, those with Charles Bonnet syndrome can differentiate between what is real and what is illusion. Myriam’s sudden and bizarre visions drive her to break into the home of her secretive neighbor, and what she finds there is far from imagined, putting her story on the local news. Having provided for her husband, Fred, for many years, now Myriam must be cared for, and Brookes’s art allows for a soft and kind glimpse into her plight.
Verdict Spooky and edgy, but well worth the read, this intriguing story sheds light on a potentially overlooked condition.—Teresa Potter-Reyes, Helen Hall Lib., League City, TX

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