Burma Chronicles & Love and Rockets

And now for some comics that did not rock my world but count towards the Graphic Novels Challenge anyway:

Burma Chronicles, Guy Delisle

Once again Guy Delisle, French-Canadian animator and cartoonist, went a-traveling to a faraway land with an oppressive regime.  In this case, his wife Nadège was working for Médecins sans Frontières (MSF); Nadège, Guy, and their small son Louis take off for Burma (Myanmar) for a year.  Delisle notes at the beginning of the book that the UN has recognized the regime and calls it Myanmar, but that many countries, including Canada, have not.  Hence Burma.

If I hadn’t read Pyongyang first, I think I’d have liked Burma Chronicles better. Burma Chronicles is charming, with keenly noted observations of day-to-day life in Burma, but Pyongyang was so chilling and scary that it was hard for this one to live up to it.  Because Delisle was in Burma longer than he was in North Korea, he got to know people better, but you’d never know it from the book.  He has an eye for detail but not an ear for conversation.  His wife’s present throughout the book, and I never had any idea what she was like.

This isn’t to say that I no longer love Guy Delisle.  At first his wife believes that they will be going to Guatemala rather than Burma, and Delisle immediately pops Star Trek into the DVD player and starts playing it in Spanish.  A man after my own heart.  I love watching Buffy in French.  Plus there’s a picture of him trying to bathe his son in a shower that’s worth the price of admission all by itself.  Tip: Don’t try to bathe a baby in the shower.

Love and Rockets, vol. 1, by the Hernandez Brothers

Am I stupid?  Stupid in the head?  Very, very stupid?  I think I must be extremely stupid, y’all, because I swear to Jesus, I was reading these stories and they did not make sense to my brain.  I have heard that Love and Rockets is glorious.  It may be glorious but it is right over my head.

Any thoughts on this?  If you loved Love and Rockets, please tell me what I’m missing.  I have heard good things!  I don’t want to lose a good graphic novel series around being a fail reader.  Should I persist into volume two?  Now that Delisle has given me a taste for travel writing, do you have any recommendations along that line?  Good travel books?  Anyone?

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20 thoughts on “Burma Chronicles & Love and Rockets

  1. I just read “Everything is Broken” by Emma Larkin which chronicles Burma in the aftermath of the cyclone that struck there in 2008. What a sad country–so much potential but the leaders (and not just the current ones) have done so little to make it a better place and the raise up their people.

    • Oh, I’ve heard of that – it looks terribly sad. That was another thing about this book, it was good but it didn’t go that much into what life was like for the regular people of Burma.

  2. You are so right about his lack of flair for conversation. I didn’t think of that at all while reading the book, except to think that his wife had no real personality. But you’re spot on! Is that less the case in Pyongyang?

    • I don’t know if it’s less the case in Pyongyang, but it’s not as noticeable. The North Koreans that Delisle encounters are making a conscious effort to be self-concealing, so when they don’t feel like real people, you assume it’s because they’re keeping a wall between themselves and him.

  3. I haven’t read Love and Rockets. I really liked Burma Chronicles though, more so than Shenzhen. I am in the middle of Pyonyang, and I agree that it is very good.

  4. My love of travel writing has always kind of been there, but I’ve indulged it more in the past year. Recommendations? You may have heard of this one as I know it was reviewed by a number of bloggers:
    Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Gilman
    – a terrifying story, but still very much travel writing with her depiction of China in the late 1980’s

    I also recommend the Best American Travel Writing anthologies. I’ve read the 2006 and 2009 books and they both have excellent travel essays.

    • I read the Gilman book earlier this year, and it WAS terrifying! I almost wanted to stop reading it, because it was that scary to me. Brrrrr.

      The anthologies is a great idea – thanks!

  5. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    Okay, I grew up on the Bros Hernandez, so I am biased. But OH MY SWEET LORD, how can you not love them? Admittedly, they are difficult. Reading vol 1 (depending on the printing) can be very odd, and very well, not the typical BH experience–as much as I do love them (and I do! One of my all-time fave compliments was on my Maggie figure!). Fast-forward a bit, and start with The Death of Speedy Ortiz (whichever volume that may be), which is a heartbreaking, but magnificent piece of storytelling. After that, hit the Locas hardcover editions (which I covet).

    • Oh, dear, I thought it might be you. I am sorry! I just felt lost during a lot of the stories. I will try again with the second volume, as I think that’s the only other one the library has.

  6. I haven’t yet read any graphic novels, but do have a couple on my shelf. I have heard good things about Love and Rockets, but after reading your mini review, it sounds as if it might go right over my head too!

    • I know some bloggers adore Love and Rockets, so don’t go by me. I’d hate for you to miss out just because I lack reading comprehension skills. :p

  7. LOL, I love your reaction to Love & Rockets. I haven’t read it myself, but one of my profs in grad school just loved it. That was enough to convince me that I probably wouldn’t. Period.

    • Hahaha, I have people like that in my life too. Of course, sometimes I’m wrong – this guy at work one time swore up and down that I’d love Revolutionary Road, and I thought based on everything else he loved, that I’d hate it. And it turned out to be quite good.

  8. I don’t know what happened with Love and Rockets, but I know you are NOT stupid. I did love it, but what I read was Palomar, which is apparently a story that came up within the series and then became separate? This sounds confusing, but reading Palomar wasn’t. I liked the magic realist-y feel and the portrayal of small town life and the excellent characterisation. I want to read more of the series, but I kind of don’t know where to go next, so I shall steal Schatzi’s advice to you 😛

    • I remember you had read something else by the Hernandez Brothers too, which sounded good – Heartbreak Soup? I might try that or Palomar, and see if I find them any more comprehensible.

  9. I tried to read Love & Rockets and didn’t enjoy it either! And then felt like a graphic novel reading failure! So you’re not alone. 🙂

  10. Pingback: The Sunday Salon: Comparing Comic Travelogues

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