From Publishers Weekly
Retelling the same one-page comic 99 different ways sounds boring, but Madden, a leading proponent of the value of formalist exercises, demonstrates how well boundaries can drive creativity, inspired by the similar work of Raymond Queneau. A new discovery awaits the reader on every page. The basic scene is a nonstory about a man who forgets why he's looking in the refrigerator. In the variations, new elements are introduced and removed: different characters, more panels, fewer closeups, flashbacks, text-only or a focus on sound or color effects. Madden acknowledges the history of the medium with allusions to various genres and characters (including the Yellow Kid, Krazy Kat and Winsor McCay's Rarebit Fiend). Favorites include a how-to on building a comic, a palindromic story that reads the same backward and forward, and a calligram (with text formed into a question mark shape). The book's format is ideal, with each page of comics facing a small identifying label, so approaches don't compete with each other, yet pages placed in sequence add up to another narrative. Anyone interested in comics or storytelling will learn much about the interaction between format and content through comparison of Madden's many ingenious approaches. (Oct.)
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In 1947 erstwhile literary surrealist Raymond Queneau published what has been called his best, most characteristic book, Les
exercices de style. In it the same tiny scenario is written in 99 different ways: once in each verb tense, as a sonnet, in free verse, as a telegram, and so on. Madden works similar magic in his own medium: comics. The "story": Madden closes a laptop, walks toward a refrigerator. From upstairs, his wife asks the time. He tells her and opens the fridge. But he can't remember what he meant to find in it. This is first unadventurously told in eight panels, using perpendicular perspective and unobtrusive progressions of--analogizing to film camera placements--medium, long, and close viewpoints. The fun begins with the very next presentation, "Monologue," in which Madden, seated with coffee, recalls the action to a fixed viewpoint (like that of a stationary camera). The remaining 97 ways reconstruct and/or rearrange the visual and/or verbal components and/or meaning in a breathtaking display of imagination that is often hilarious and literally, gloriously kaleidoscopic. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved