- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; Includes a music CD with Carter Family songs edition (October 1, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0810988364
- ISBN-13: 978-0810988361
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #692,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song Hardcover – October 1, 2012
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To tell the story of the first family of country music, Lasky poses simple, flat figures before minimal backdrops, letting color and shading conjure atmosphere. Panels vary little in size; a half-pager’s a real event. Altogether, the art recalls early daily comics and old Carter Family photos. Perhaps only a very distinctive stylist—say, R. Crumb—could have made the book look “better,” even then not making it look better suited to the subject. As for that subject, readers of Mark Zwonitzer and Charles Hirshberg’s Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? (2002) will appreciate how closely Young and Lasky reflect that masterpiece of country music history. The Carters preserved an enormous body of traditional Appalachian song that affected the repertoire, attitudes, harmonies, and rhythms of country music, up to and including rock ’n’ roll. An 18-minute CD lets those who’ve never heard them get acquainted, but chances are that most readers will already know their hits—the likes of “Wildwood Flower,” “Can the Circle Be Unbroken,” and “Keep On the Sunny Side.” --Ray Olson
About the Author
Frank M. Young is a writer and editor who has contributed to newspapers and magazines across the country. Born in the Deep South, he now lives in Seattle. David Lasky has written and illustrated a number of highly acclaimed comic books. Originally from Virginia, David now makes his home in Seattle.
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Top Customer Reviews
A masterfully told story of a group of amazing people that saved and shaped a huge part of our musical heritage. As ambitious and densely layered as a mainstream literary novel, Young and Lasky's bio-graphic-novel (we need a "biopic" term for a book like this) of the First Family of country music, the legendary Carter Family, strikes me as destined to become a classic.
I've long followed Lasky's comics. The first Lasky comic I bought (from The Million Year Picnic in Harvard Square) was a mini-comic version of James Joyce's monumental book, Ulysses! I've been a fan of Young's comics for decades as he is an old pal of mine. His modern South classic, Junior Foods, remains one of my all-time favorite comics.
I'm really glad to see this book come out -- I've been waiting for a major work from these guys for years -- and this rich book more than satisfies. The book is a solid read, dense with layers of interesting information, characterization, period detail. It's all written, drawn, and designed in a subtly changing style that mimics the newspaper comics of the era in which the story takes place -- mostly a sort of amalgam of Harold Gray and Frank King. As the years roll on, the art and coloring shifts, just as American newspaper comics did. there's even some black and white "dailies" cleverly woven into the storyline. No attention is called to this. In fact, the black-and-white sequence happens during a time when A.P. Carter is feeling emotional despair -- and, like all of the creative innovations in this book, the device works in service of the story.
Of course, you can't tell the story of The Carter Family without embracing some of the major touchstones of 20th century American culture - the rural folkways, racial issues, the changing role of women, the rise of the American city, and the early days of the recording industry and radio -- it's all a part of this multi-layered work. Lest this sound like a dry academic non-fiction book - it's anything but -- the "true" story is told as if it were a novel and with a great sense of stoic drama true to the spirit of its subject. Like the Carter Family's music, this book seems stiff and formal on the surface, but it is filled with emotional highs and lows -- all reflective of actual events, and events that will resonate with anyone who has lived and loved. Plus, you get an amazing CD of rare Carter recordings that helps deepen the reading experience. Listening to A.P. Carter sing "One Word" after reading the book was very moving for me.
Young daringly writes the dialogue in dialect -- something that Mark Twain did in "Huckleberry Finn," a book that many folks consider to be one of the greatest novels. I think the dialect works extremely well in this book. It added a lot to the reading experience by helping me to remember these folks are from another time and place, and one that is rooted in what Greil Marcus called "the old, weird America." In spite of the "otherness" of the character's speech, I never had any trouble at all understanding what I was reading -- a great job by Young.
Lasky's art is perfect for the subject matter - calm on the surface with deep passion underneath. Lasky has the ability to capture subtle body language and facial expressions that communicate worlds of emotion under the reserved surface of the Carter's world. His line is thin but strong -- humble while having great presence. I love his drawings of Sara -- you can see why A.P. fell in love with her. Despite the "fine arts" aspect of the visuals, Lasky never forgets he is working with the traditional language of comics, and so you see things like surprise lines and sweat drops flying from the character's faces. Perhaps Lasky's greatest innovation in the book is his invention of a new, powerful way to portray music graphically. I've read on their blog that Lasky and Young obsessively sought out period details for the book, and -- because of this -- it "feels" right -- a hardfought sense of authenticity prevails.
Frank Young colored the book, in addition to writing it, and his autumnal palette evokes the overall sweet melancholy of the story. Young emphasizes emotional moments with yellows, reds, and even no color at all, and it all works to help draw you into the world of the Carters.
Lastly, I knew almost nothing of the Carter Family before I read this book - and now I feel as if I know them all personally. As I read, my heart went out to both A.P. and Sara for all that they went through -- and for the family and community that bore it all with them. There is the idea that each generation naturally passes on accumulated emotional pain to the next, and this idea may -- perhaps unconsciously -- be at the heart of this book. Somehow, the Carter's music has a magic to transcend this tragic cycle, even if just for the two minutes it takes to make a 78 record. This graphic novel, in both the subject matter and the art of its presentation is a reading experience that I hope will someday not be as singular as it is now -- I wish there were lots more books like this out there.
The excellent artwork evokes the newspaper comics of the time. At some point an annotated edition would be fun!
The storytelling is equally top notch, building the story from chapter to chapter, bringing us close to the people and the songs. The storytelling is flexible, using short chapters that provide vignettes of the Carter Family career, the history of early radio, and American culture and history during those years.
I think this is one of the best books of the year, one of the best books I've read in years - graphic novel or any other kind. It uses the power of the image as flexibly as a good movie.
If you have any affection for or interest in the roots of country music you'll want to read this book, and read it over. Plus the book contains a generous amount of background material - and a CD! The edition looks great. Abrams is to be congratulated.
It seems it took a number of years to bring this to print. Yet there is no faltering. This is a powerful and sustained book.
It uses storytelling techniques inspired by the early comic strips to create something that's more fragmented - and truer to life - than a script for a streamlined Hollywood bio-pic would be.
The artwork by David Lasky is quite beautiful. It's clearly somewhat inspired by master cartoonist Robert Crumb's much lauded strips about early blues musicians. But unlike Crumb's short strips this book has the feel and scope of a real novel.
The coloring is beautiful too. Apparently it was mostly done by Frank M. Young - he's the guy who wrote the book - so he's clearly a man of both visual and linguistic talents. It would have been easy to create a faded (and perhaps somewhat boring) retro-look by using mostly low-key brown and yellow colors. But the varied colors used create a variety of moods for the different chapters - yet in the end it all DOES add up to something that looks faded and 'retro' - but not boring at all.
You don't need to be a Carter Family fan to enjoy this book - it tells an engaging and human story. But perhaps it helps if you're interested in American popular culture, or is a fan of some of all the haunting and compelling musical artists that have followed in the trail of the Carters... Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Nick Cave, Bonnie Prince Billy.... or scores of country and folk artists.
This feels like it could have been 'The Graphic Novel of the Year' any year that Chris Ware hadn't released his acclaimed magnum opus "Building Stories". Oh well, this will have to be the more modest and accessible - and maybe less depressing - runner-up.
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