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Monday, March 4, 2013

Sailor Twain

or The Mermaid in the Hudson

I haven’t read a graphic novel in years. I loved Spiegelman’s Maus I & II as well as Satrapi’s Persepolis. I had a collection of graphic novels on my classroom bookshelves that I perused. When I saw a familiar title, Sailor Twain on the library’s new shelf list, I reached for and discovered it to be a graphic novel by Mark Siegel. The alternate title, The Mermaid in the Hudson intrigued me more. Twain is one of my favorite authors and I believe he wrote the quintessential American Novel Huckleberry Finn. Another of my favorite novels of his is Life on the Mississippi and this one reminded me of it when I opened to the front piece to see a charcoal rendering of the Brooklyn Bridge and a cartoon caption exclaiming, “Don’t call me captain.” It looks like a Most Excellent Adventure, Ted.

It all begins in great mystery at the Ferryman’s Tavern probably at the foot of Fulton St on the Manhattan side of the east River just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, a place I lived near for 26 years.  I know the area well and know it is seeped in history and folklore. We are left with “When you found who?” as we probe Twain’s secret.

I’m loving the irony of these two little ne’er-do-wells reading Huckleberry Finn and being at bookstores and being discouraged while they exclaim that “You people buy books but we actually read them.” Book reading was the latest technology of those days replacing the previous one of speechifying.

This is two books in one, sort of, hence the double title. They aren’t separate books, but interwoven ones, split in two. The story is about being whole and about the heart. The story is beautiful and the drawings stunning and even erotic in the right way and places. This is a fun book, a quick read, and filled with great literary allusions.

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