Bring Out the Gimp

Musings on pop culture by freelance journalist Shawn Conner

Archive for the tag “book reviews”

Poem Strip by Dino Buzzati

Dino Buzzati Poem Strip book cover

Dino Buzzati Poem Strip book cover (NYRB).

1969 Italian graphic novel retells Orpheus myth

Here’s a true curiosity; an Italian ‘graphic novel’ (though more like a psychedelic illustrated poem) from 1969.

Dino Buzzati (1906-1972), the author/illustrator, was a journalist, novelist and short story writer. Poem Strip (Including An Explanation of the Afterlife) is a story in poem form set to Buzzati’s colour illustrations.

It’s certainly “a pathbreaking graphic novel”, as the jacket states. To put Poem Strip in perspective…

(Find out more about this fascinating work on my Poem Strip graphic novel review)

Dino Buzzati illustration from Poem Strip (1969)

Dino Buzzati illustration from Poem Strip (1969).

Basically a retelling of the story of Orpheus descending to the underworld to bring his lost love Eurydice back to the the world of the living, Poem Strip has as its protagonist Orphi, scion of a noble family fallen on hard times. To earn a living, Orphi has become a musician, and a successful one at that, a kind of Italian Donovan. One night from his family’s estate he sees his love Eura disappear in a mysterious doorway; when he pursues her, he finds himself in a kind of limbo, an afterlife where death (and birth) are unknown, naked women (as though drawn from Italian skin mags of the time) are plentiful and a talking jacket is the tour guide.

The Talking Jacket from Poem Strip.

To say any more risks spoiling the pleasures of this wonderful little book; suffice it to say this New York Review Books edition, published last year and translated from the Italian by Marina Harss, is a beauty, and a must-see for aficionados of graphic novels and comics. (I was lucky enough to discover it in the staff recommendations section in the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle.) It’s both a missing link between the underground comics of the ’60s and the graphic novel boom of recent years, and yet it’s so uniquely its own thing that it defies such easy categorization.

-Shawn Conner

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