- Hardcover: 72 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber Social; Main edition (November 29, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780571328833
- ISBN-13: 978-0571328833
- ASIN: 0571328830
- Product Dimensions: 12.2 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #495,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Love In Vain: Robert Johnson 1911-1938, The Graphic Novel Hardcover – November 29, 2016
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"All the time that the tension builds, so too does the detail in Johnstone’s picture of a once-happy family ground down by sorrow...I would have been happy to read chapters and chapters more of this book." Independent on Sunday
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And while the story is well told it's the strikingly beautiful illustrations that elevate this book to something special. The warm-toned black and white illustrations are both evocative and straightforward in detail. Pausing to really look at virtually every panel will increase the enjoyment factor greatly From Johnson's tough upbringing, his early attempts at playing the guitar, his "sudden" mastery of the instrument, his ramblings with fellow bluesman Johnny Shines, his philandering with married women, his drinking ("never drink from an open bottle"), to his early death, not from a poisoned bottle of alcohol given to him by a jealous husband, but from pneumonia. The illustrations are well matched with Dupont's telling of the story.
Also included is a section titled "Song Book" that has the lyrics to some of Johnson's most famous songs along with some full page impressionistic drawings across from each lyric page. There's also a panel that features Eric Clapton singing Johnson's "Crossroads", and several panels of the Rolling Stones at Altamont singing another Johnson tune "Love In Vain", the last penal which alludes to (possibly) the Devil. A small Bibliography is also included.
This is a beautifully done book--from the thick hardboard covers, the period style graphic pattern used on the end papers, to the thick paper stock, and of course, the wonderful illustrations that are visually so arresting. At times Mezzo's work is vaguely reminiscent of R. Crumb's work, especially in the many faces throughout the book. The book is 72 pages in length and is 7 3/4" X 12". But don't let the slim number of pages deter you from checking this book out. This is a case where quality most definitely outstrips quantity.
A few of the panels contain illustrations dealing with sex, and while not totally overt, it's obvious what's going on. And one panel has Johnson uttering the "f" word ,and there's some risque lyrics in other panels of Johnson's songs. I don't think this will matter much to most people familiar with Johnson's lifestyle, and it is a depiction of that period and his life. But I thought I'd warn anyone who may be offended. In defense I have to say that without the sex scenes and lyrics this wouldn't be true to the tale of Johnson's life. This is a book to add to your shelf of blues books if you're a fan of Johnson's music.
This is quite a good month for blues fans looking for books on the blues. Also well worth checking out is a book by Bill Dahl, "The Art of the Blues--A Visual Treasury of Black Music's Golden Era". This too is a well produced book that's a visual feast for fans of the blues in (roughly) the first half of the Twentieth Century. I've posted a review of that book too if it sounds interesting.
The book is as much visual art as textual story, as a graphic treatment should be. The story is told in words against a visual background that lends the words a kind of just-right slipperiness they wouldn’t have on their own. The art work is striking, heavy black and white. The depiction of Johnson’s pinstripe suit jumps out of the pages, contributing to that not quite real effect.
Dupont, the author of the text, wrote the story around the pivot of religion, Johnson’s mythological choice to ally with the devil. But he doesn’t just treat it, like I’ve seen elsewhere, as a personal bargain with the devil for supernatural guitar skills. It’s a framework for the whole story — Johnson’s divorce from the church-infused side of the blues and of black culture during his time. He plays on the other side, in the other places, and hangs out with the other people. It’s where his music flourishes, and it’s where he meets his quick ending. And again, you see it in the artwork behind the story as it’s told.
It might only take a half hour to read the book — it goes by quickly, kind of like Johnson’s life. But the art is so good, and the text so haunting that I know I’ll dip back into it now and then just for a quick hit.
Lyrics for Johnson’s better known songs are included at the back of the book, along with an illustration for each. The illustrations are, like all the illustrations in the book, not literal. They evoke the mood of the songs. Really good.