Monday, January 4, 2010

Sacco's Footnotes in Gaza: an Appreciation

I finished reading Joe Sacco's new book, Footnotes in Gaza, last night.

I mean the word "appreciation" in the title of this post in two different ways. First, this post can't really be a review of the book, since I am still not ready to write one of those. Footnotes in Gaza is more than a lot to take in: lots of information, lots of inhumanity, lots of suffering. And it's by far the heftiest book that Joe Sacco has written.

Take a look at that solidity. Keep in mind that I have large paws.

The other sense in which I mean "an Appreciation" is more trivial for public purposes, but since not many people read our blog, let me also say that I'm writing this post to say thanks for Mike, who sent me the book as a Christmas present. I appreciate it!

Leaving aside the serious, powerful stories contained in this book, which really deserve to remake your ideas about politics and human travail in the Middle East, I would like to say a little bit about Joe Sacco's drawings. I'd be willing to bet that many of the reviews of this book will have a lot to say about Sacco's world-class journalism. They may not take the time to mention that he's also one of the hardest-working cartoonists in the business.

Here, look. Go ahead and click to enlarge this.

Here's a tiny detail from the upper right corner of that panorama:

And the figures running across that demolished Palestinian no-man's-land:

Almost every panel is full of details that make the world of Gaza, in mid-century or in the present moment, tangible:

And when Sacco pulls out the stops, when he really lays down the ink, that kind of attention to detail can be harrowing:

Look at the way that the three tiny central human figures in this panel emerge from the cross-hatching:

Yes. For real. The cross-hatching.

The cross-hatching.

The labor visible in every shade of gray.

I have this theory about cross-hatching in Sacco's work:

I think this kind of cross-hatching denotes attention, and thereby compels the reader's attention; moreover, it denotes careful fidelity, and therefore compels the reader's credence.

So here's to Sacco surviving that Israeli guardtower gunfire!

Here's to the the crowquill and the callus! Here's to the latest comics journalism masterpiece!

Go get yourself a copy.


Mike said...

Glad you appreciate it, Kaiser. I'd have been stunned if it hadn't kept up to Sacco's awesome standards (and I mean "awesome" in the non-80s, traditional sense). And your point about the cross-hatching is well taken. Of course, the attention demanded by the labor would hardly be compelling if the labor weren't masterful in its result as well as in its effort. But then, it is. And remember, dude: he does all that hatching without a ruler. Really: stunning.

John said...

I got this for christmas and am actually reading it now and it's really just overwhelming. Story and art wise.