Friday, 21 February 2014

Deep Sequencing: Travelling Travelogue

Or a look at why Guy Delisle's travelogue comics make perfect travel companions

I'm the kind of person who fills up a giant backpack with books and comics whenever international travel happens for time spent on airplanes, in transport, laying on beaches, and especially when I travel alone for work. Reading makes the time stuck in a too-small seat slightly less awful when in the air or on rails and makes time killed in a pub alone more socially acceptable! And whats better than laying on a beach with a cold beverage and an excellent book or comic? Few things!

But travel reading comes with a series of special challenges. Challenges which I think the travelogue comics of Guy Delisle perfectly address.

The first challenge is space: whenever travelling involves baggage there is only so much stuff you can pack and since I am a luddite who prefers his reading material to come in dead tree form, this means there is a limit on the number of books and comics I can pack. Guy Delisle's travelogues, while still being a substantial length, are comics that are thinner than a novel. While it's true novels are a denser entertainment medium, if you want a good amount of comic that won't monopolize travel space, these travelogues are about the right size.

The second travel reading challenge is also space: when you are exploring a new city or trying to find the perfect place on the beach it's nice to use a smaller rucksack to carry your water bottles (filter equipped), guidebooks, maps, and other travelling stuff. The cost of this smaller backpack is that tradepaperback sized comics don't fit into the bag. Conveniently, Guy Delisle travelogues, with their novel-like dimensions, will fit right into a small rucksack.

One of the other challenges specific to comics is content. I once tried to read Black Hole on an airplane (before I appreciated how twisted and pornographic a comic it is). It was... a non-starter. Reading on an airplane or in other public places, I think, requires a certain level of consideration for the sensibilities of the people around you. While you can read a filthy novel, like Crooked Little Vein, anywhere without upsetting the people around you, comics are a visual medium which can mean objectionable pictures which means that I think you should choose a comic that you can read in front of children and the elderly without offending people when travelling. Guy Delisle's comics are about life in other places delivered with slapstick humour and is at worst PG13. It's safe for work and travel.

(Also there are some weird laws about what constitutes obscenity or pornography in other countries, and some countries reserve the right to rifle through your books and hard drives. As such, it might actually be wise and not just polite to show some discretion with which comics you bring travelling with you. By all means, read whatever filthy thing you want at home, but maybe choose something like Jerusalem or Burma instead of Black Kiss when abroad.)

When it comes to comics you read while actually getting around the place your visiting the Delisle comics are also a pretty great choice. When it comes to rides on subways or trains into city centres, reading opportunities come in little bursts where you need to quickly quit your reading and rush off to explore and what-not. Since I hate stopping a thing in the middle of a section (chapter, section, whatever), comics and books with short chapters or frequent page breaks are pretty great for travelling. And the Delisle comics are great in that they are broken up into individual strips that usually run a page or two, with the occasional single narrative stream running up to ten pages. It's a way of doing comics where there is always a convenient jumping off spot just a page away.

Then there is the actual subject matter. Guy Delisle's travelogue comics are travelogues: they document prolonged stays in Jerusalem, Burma, Shenzhen and Pyongyang with an eye for the small particulars of life as well as the broader society and social injustice. And what could more perfect to read while travelling than comics about other places? It's like a comics vacation WITHIN a larger vacation. Which, I think, more than the convenient format size, public space appropriate content, and short chapters is what makes Guy Delisle's comics perfect for vacations.

No comments:

Post a Comment