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Vågnes, Øyvind: "Showing silence. David Small’s Stitches." In: Studies in Comics 1.2 (2010), S. 301–314.
|Resource type: Journal Article
BibTeX citation key: Vgnes2010
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Keywords: "Stitches", Autobiographie, Krankheit, Small. David, USA
Collection: Studies in Comics
David Small’s graphic memoir Stitches (2009), about his childhood and youth in Detroit in the 1950s, is a book of silences: the silence of a withdrawing mother whose compensatory language is to wash the dishes noisily; the silence of a father who goes to the basement to thump a punching bag; the silence of a little brother who beats incessantly on a drum. In a household in which conversation is infrequent and at best tense, Small is left to guess his way to hidden family stories of both the present (his mother’s closeted lesbianism) and the past (the circumstances surrounding the violent death of a grandfather). The most devastating silences in Small's depiction of his early years, however, grow out of his bouts with cancer, the diagnosis of which his parents left him ignorant about, and that was the cause of tests made by his radiologist father. After returning from two hospital operations at age 14, Small finds that he has only one vocal cord left, that he has been transformed into a mute teenager in a profoundly malfunctional family.
With reference to the literature on verbal/visual tensions in graphic narrative, various writings on comics autobiography, as well as to works that address the relationship between trauma and narratology, my article explores the various ways in which Stitches can be said to be showing silence. A book of more images than words, Small’s memoir powerfully describes visually a gestic that articulates painful isolation as a result of various forms of incommunication. Using pen and ink as well as grey-toned watercolour, Small creates a black and white world of shadows and darkness, of starkly precise memories and vivid dreams that blend into one another, of imaginary spaces into which the pained child at the centre of the story retreats. An image of tearing apart and bringing together, of wounding as well as healing, the stitches of the title refer both to the scar across David’s throat and to the way in which he weaves his narrative together, as an attempt at human recovery against substantial odds.
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