25 November 2008

The Rabbi's Cat, by Joann Sfar

I had intended to spend my Sunday in dissertation la-la land, but then I decided that a good breakfast would kick-start my genius, and Harold and Ruchama picked me up to go to Chicago's House of Chicken and Waffles, Ruchama had brought this book (and the sequel) with her. After an amazing breakfast, I was somewhat incapacitated, and I couldn't resist the urge to peek between the covers. 2 hours later I was closing the book with a sigh of bliss. This book is so fabulous. I want to go out and buy copies for everyone I know. Please, please buy this book, and read it, and give it to your loved ones. It's wonderful, not in that "omg it'll change your life" sort of way, but in that "it will make your soul hum with contentment" kind of way. It's just wonderful.

The Rabbi's Cat is a graphic novel about... a rabbi's cat. After eating a parrot, it miraculously develops the ability to speak, and so its adventures begin. Although there are moments of dialogue, much of the text is actually given in the form of voice-over narration from the cat with accompanying illustrations. The cat is fantastically snarky and hilarious and generally a delight, particularly when he's learning about Judaism: I tell him that even a kitten would not buy this nonsense. He says that's what his master taught him. I tell him what I think of his master. But for all his sarcasm, the cat is also a thoughtful, loving creature, and there are plenty of moving moments in the text. Also some really interesting insights into culture shock - the story is set in Algeria, but they also travel to Paris at one point. The work ends up being a really beautiful complex reflection on love, religion, and culture. 

Also, the artwork is fantastic. Really wonderfully rendered images, that serve as marvelous accompaniments to the text. It's a really stunning example of the artistry of the graphic novel, where the images aren't just illustrations, but are themselves an instrumental part of the narrative. 

Oh, I love this book. Go buy it. 

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