Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Trade Waiting - Interiorae by Gabriella Giandelli

Apartment complexes are strange pieces of architecture, looming and foreboding often with a complete lack of personality or individuality. Designed to get the maximum amount of people into as little floor space as possible, residents can often find themselves with neighbours above, below, and to the side of them. Ironically, even with so many people tightly packed in together some habitants can find themselves feeling incredibly desolate, ostracized from the rest of the world, the truest sense of being alone in a crowd. Italian cartoonist Gabriella Giandelli feels that these are places rich with storytelling capabilities and uses an apartment block as the setting for her first full length collection to be published in the United States, Interiorae. Is this a book that is worth you time? Or is it naval gazing nonsense, a trap that slice of life stories often fall into? Find out after the jump.


Interiorae: Story and Art by Gabriella Giandelli
Published by Fantagraphics

Life is a fleeting thing, and despite our best intentions as children, often inconsequential as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the lives of the many are boring though, in fact the opposite is often the case. It can also be said that no matter how different we all are, be it race, age, social or financial status, we all experience the same emotions. Love, loss, bitterness, regret, the fear of dying, (or in fact the fear of living.) These are the things that as a species we all have in common, the things that come to us all regardless of our place in society. These are also the spaces that Gabriella Giandelli explored when writing Interiorae.

Like Zack Sally's Sammy the Mouse, Interiorae was originally serialized in Fantagraphics’ Ignatz anthology books, and like many of the books featured within those pages it was deemed worthy of being collected into its own edition, this time by Fantagraphics themselves. Interiorae tells the tale of a select group of occupants that live in a tower block in an unnamed European city. Interiorae also tells the tale of a fourth wall breaking ghostly white rabbit, which collects dreams to feed to the Great Dark One, a black mass that resides in the apartment complexes basement. As our narrator, the white rabbit goes from apartment to apartment, often telling us who they are and the nature of the relationships between the residents. Seemingly, none of the adults who live in the apartment block can actually see the rabbit as he goes about his business judging and viewing the residents, but the rabbit can be seen by animals, children, and the enlightened.  

The various inhabitants in the apartment are pretty archetypal, so much so that they could be called clich├ęd yet Giandelli is quick to subvert expectations for all these characters. The scary heroin addict quickly becomes the harassed outsider; the adulterous wife is shown to be lonely and lacking her husbands affections so much so that it all comes across as more for his attention than her excitement; the old lady on her death bed is actually one of the more vibrant members of the cast. These are the unglamorous and the marginalised members of society, the forgotten people, sometimes in a literal sense with a family of ghosts recently passed due to an accident. This is not because the public at large are ashamed of them but because they aren’t hideous or exciting enough to warrant the attention or distain of the masses. Giandelli is quick to prove that this couldn’t be any further from the truth, using the Great Dark One as the visualisation of this idea. The Great Dark One uses the inhabitant’s dreams to stay alive and keep healthy, and as their dreams become more jaded and cynical the Great Dark One becomes weaker and hungrier.

Gabriella Giandelli has a writing style that is smooth and clear, with the white rabbit being the narrator and using him/her to help you understand the motivations of the characters involved in the story. Intelligently, the white rabbit is a character of graceful optimism; the story may have come across as a little glum without carefree attitude of the white rabbit to anchor it. The white rabbit is quite the philosopher too, taking his time between the casual voyeurism to wax lyrical on the human condition and in particular, how it relates to the characters in the story. Giandelli also weaves magic on the way the other characters speak. There is a certain rhythmic beauty to the dialogue that gives the whole book a feeling of quiet, almost as if everyone is speaking in soft tones. In fact, some of the dialogue is so beautiful it would put some great poets and songwriters to shame. The scene where the dying old lady tells the junkie that she always thought he was a nice boy and that she remembered ‘bullies making him hide in the basement where he has been there ever since’ will reduce even the most hardened soul to jelly.

None of this would matter if the art didn’t match the story or the subject matter. Thankfully this is not the case. Giandelli uses pencils to make the images as quiet and soft as the dialogue contained within the pages. The shading and attention to detail brings everything to life, including the building itself. Her ability to render architecture and inanimate objects is second to none and her character designs are realistic and easy to define. This makes the white rabbit, changing sizes and dimensions on a whim, look completely absurd, but having said that it works really well and must have been the technique that Giandelli was going for. Finally, not since Ba and Moon’s creator owned work has this reviewer seen a creator who can rend emotions from the reader without using dialogue. This is a skill that only a select few can do and adds to the immersive experience of the book, knowing a characters motivation without actually reading them.


Verdict – Buy it

Slice of life stories may not be to everyone’s taste, especially in a medium dominated by escapist fantasies, but Gabriella Giandelli manages to straddle the line between the fantastical and the realistic with a skill that only a great cartoonist has. If you have been scared off by the self deprecating nature of the Wares and Clowes of this world you could do much worse than giving Interiorae a go. Great art, sturdy storytelling chops; an almost incomparable skill of portraying emotion within her characters, and an amazing skill of showing optimism in even the most soulless of landscapes, Giandelli is a creator that we need to see more of. Hopefully this is not the last work of hers that gets translated for an English speaking audience.


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5 comments:

The Boy said...

Upon your review of this trade I ordered in 2 copies of this into our store and have to say, this is an absolute stunning creation.
I loved this so much and after your synopsis I knew my wife would extremely dig, so I purchased the second copy and brought it home.
She thanks you profusely...well, I received at little bit of praise.
Thanks agin and keep up the good work.

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