by Glen Weldon
And so it begins: Another noisy, stressful, cousin-crammed festival of starchy overconsumption. Tomorrow, you will feast. And drink. And listen helplessly as your great-uncle updates you on the medical status of his bowels.
And then on Friday morning, you'll stumble from bed a bleary, still-bloated mess. In your compromised state, the shopping mall may beckon. Ignore it.
Instead, do yourself a favor: Hie your tired, tryptophan-addled butt to the nearest couch.
And take a book with you. One that:
1. You can polish off in a single lazy afternoon, and yet
2. Is so thick it could drop even a particularly belligerent yak.
After the jump: Five thick-but-quick books made for long gray weekends like this one.
Okay, here's the secret. Here's how you can immerse yourself in a rich, detailed, fully imagined tale, start to finish, over the course of the afternoon you'd otherwise waste schlepping to Best Buy and back.
Make it a comic book.
And not just any comic book. If your experience of comics isn't particularly vast, the latest issue of an ongoing series like Proof or Scalped won't fit the bill (though both, I hasten to add, are seriously groovy reads).
No, what you're looking for is a graphic novel. A big, thick, heavy one.
Why place such a premium on sheer heft, you ask?
Because the one thing I hear again and again from the many hapless non-comics-reading friends upon whom I've foisted various funnybooks is this:
"That's ... it? I read the whole thing in like six minutes."
It's true, I won't deny it; Comics have a high burn rate. Unless and until you can train yourself to slow down — to give yourself time to digest a given book's artwork — your text-hungry eye will simply carom from word balloon to word balloon, devouring panels and pages at a dizzying clip.
It doesn't take long to break that noob-esque habit, but it does take practice. The graphic novels listed below, which clock in at anywhere from 200 to, in one instance, even 1,300 pages — so huge the freaking thing practically bends spacetime — are just the ticket.
What's more, each one features a beginning, middle and end — no mere trade paperback collections of issues from ongoing series here. (But again: If you happen to be on the market for ongoing series? Proof. Scalped. Seriously, you'll thank me.)
Here they are in order, from least to most bricklike:
Compared to the other weighty tomes on this list, Mail Order Bride's pagecount — a paltry 264 — make it seem downright sylphlike. But this unsparing tale of an emotionally stunted comic shop owner (and the young Korean wife who quickly outgrows him) is a dense, rewarding read. Kalesniko is merciless in exposing the casual racism and misogyny lurking even among the geekiest strata of society, and provides a gratifyingly nuanced portrait of a smart young woman coming to the realization that the world's a much bigger place than she thought.
A painstakingly argued, fact-based treatise on the identity of Jack the Ripper — albeit a gory, gorgeous, hugely entertaining one. This blood-soaked doorstop of a book, all 572 pages of it, contains multitudes: Dark conspiracies, hansom cabs, 40 pages of historical footnotes, Freemasonry, not to mention lengthy meditations on the fourth dimension and the nature of time itself. Plus: Surgery, syphilis, and stabbings by the dozen (Happy Holidays!) Not simply better than the movie, but an altogether different, more meditative animal than the movie.
(Speaking of which: If VIctorian-era disemboweling doesn't float your boat, you might consider Watchmen, Moore and Dave Gibbon's 416-page, gimlet-eyed take on superheroes. Get it now, before the movie comes out next March, and they change the book's cover to match.)
Several now-classic tropes of the indie comic have set up shop between the covers of this 592-page memoir, which traces the author's youth and adolescence in a fundamentalist Christian household. Self-conscious narrator? Check. Impetuous, emotionally troubled girlfriend? Check. Resulting stomach-hollowing pangs of first love? Check. But Thompson's treatment of his subject — notably the haunting, even dreamlike imagery he'll employ to illustrate the smallest, seemingly unremarkable moments of a relationship — sets Blankets apart.
Robinson's sprawling, multi-character magnum opus (608 pages, but who's counting?) was written over the course of several years, and perhaps the coolest thing about it is: You can tell. The book — which kicks off as a solid if somewhat familiar seriocomic chronicle of New York-based twentysomethings trapped in unrewarding jobs — evolves as Robinson grows more assured and uncovers new emotional territories to explore. Some of his characters grow, while others resolutely do not — and the control Robinson displays as he shifts them in and out of the narrative spotlight allows us to watch a young writer come into full possession of his particular gifts.
Bone, by Jeff Smith. Published by Cartoon Books.
Bone is a study in contradictions — at once a breezy, all-ages, whimsically funny romp and a hugely complex epic fantasy of dragons and danger that runs to 1332 pages. (Smith has gathered the entire run of the original series, which was published over the course of twelve years, into one paperback volume.) Smith's approach owes much to Walt Kelly, but Bone is more than pastiche — it's a fresh, hugely imaginative, and fully realized world of its own.
By all means pick it up — but be advised that the book weighs 3.8 pounds so, you know: Lift with your legs.