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EVENT REVIEW: Drawing on Life: Life Writing in Graphic Novels with Una and Mary Talbot

25 October 2017

8th October

Palace Green Library

Review by Angelos Sofocleous

Unfortunately, it’s not very often that one has the chance to listen to two women talking in public about their careers. It’s even less frequent listening to them talking about the issues that matter to them. Drawing on Life: Life Writing in Graphic Novels had both, and that’s what made it such an enjoyable and inspiring event.

Mary Talbot and Una, both graphic novelists, shared their stories, revealing what makes graphic novels different from other pieces of art. Graphic novels are unique in that they are static like paintings, and are not continuous like films.

Graphic novels are extremely rich and can get to grips with complexity. The richness of graphic novels rests on the fact that they represent the very primitive image that exists in the author’s mind. Then, it’s left up to the reader to add what’s missing from that image, using their imagination.

For Talbot, writing had also been about her own life: ‘you have to be honest through your stories to your audience if you want to have an impact’, she said, emphasizing how, in graphic novels, one ought to present their true self. The use of images as a method of communication helps both the author in portraying their own reality, and also helps the reader to situate this reality into their own world.

For Una, the real challenge was the conversion of words into graphics, as she noticed a state of agitation between language and image. Nevertheless, she was successful in presenting various aspects of feminine reality, aspects which would be almost impossible for someone to imagine in the absence of a visual representation or real-life experience. Una also managed to emphasise aspects of toxic masculinity, which has made male violence unchallenged and the norm.

‘The fact that we are not all dead, shows that there is more good in the world’, Una noted in the end, giving a positive note and hope for all societal groups which seek to speak and be heard.