May 24, 2005
Mais Qu'est-Ce Que J'Etais Venu Faire, Moi?
In 1947, Raymond Queneau wrote the same simple story about a man on a train 99 different ways. The book Exercises in Style became a bestseller in France, and its English translation is in its second edition. (You can find it here in French.)
This year, Matt Madden wants to do the same thing with comics. His forthcoming book, also called Exercises in Style, retells the mundane tale of a man on a late-night trip to the fridge in 99 different incarnations. A preview of the book is available on Madden’s Web site.
I love the way this little storytelling gimmick fuels the imagination. The way you can spend lifetimes thinking about how meaning shifts in each quarto of a Shakespeare play, flipping through a few of Madden’s exercises can make his nothing little characters come alive in your mind. As you move from drawing to drawing and note the changes in perspective or tone, you can imagine rich interior worlds. In one variation, the trip to the fridge is frightening. In another, it’s fantastical. If you’re like me, by the time you’ve clicked through just a few, you begin to understand the fridge-goer as a character on some deep existential quest.
But my favorite thing on the site is a variation submitted by one of Madden’s guest artists, Sébastien Trahan. It’s in French, but you don’t need to understand French to appreciate it. (Just know that “14h11” in French means 2:11, etc.)