Go ahead. Click on that image. Blow it up, and take it in. It'll brighten your day.
There was no doubt where my T.G.I.F. would come from this week. I knew it instantly. Part of the First Second Fall 2006 line, Joann Sfar's Klezmer is a work of irrepressible joy, leaping off the page. It is so deep and true, capturing the Jewish Diaspora experience of "laughing wild amidst severest woe", of making life and music and laughter even under extreme persecution and hardship. In this careful story about musicians in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century, Sfar captures a time and a place and a people. It feels instantly classic, belonging alongside Isaac Bashevis Singer on the bookshelf.
"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture - it's a really stupid thing to want to do," said Elvis Costello once. He may be right, but perhaps sequential art has a leg up. It's not easy to have musical numbers in a comic, but Sfar's explosions of color and action when the music starts throughout the novel almost create synesthesia where you can hear the colors. He also tells stories through these musical set pieces, such as the confrontation between The Baron Of My Backside and the townsfolk musicians who killed his friends. It's absolutely glorious, and the book as a whole is so complex and beautiful that it's easily one of the best graphic novels I've read. Not "this month" or "this year" or "this decade" ...
The cover promises this is only "Book One", and I'll be eagerly awaiting the rest of this wonderful story.