Tag Archives: 1994

‘City of Glass’ (Auster | Karasik | Mazzucchelli | Spiegelman, 1994/2004)

25 Jun

I came to the graphic novel adaptation of City of Glass in the spring of this year.  My capstone class had completed Timbuktu and Mr. Vertigo and I was dying to read more Auster.  However, this interest in his back pages was tempered by the amount of work that lay before me in the weeks before graduation.  One of my professors, knowing my keen interest in Auster’s work, loaned me a slim graphic novel that he assured me was taken faithfully from the first book in the New York Trilogy. 

At this point, I was all honey badger* about the printed matter being discussed in the aforementioned capstone class.  I carried the volume up to the sixth floor of Healey Library, where I sat at a small table overlooking the harbor.  Between gasps of dialogue and character and small, crosshatched frames, I gazed out at the city skyline blanketed under fog.

Reading the City of Glass graphic novel so soon after its prose counterpart, I’m struck by how well David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik captured the spirit of Auster’s work.  While the exclusion of a few paragraphs here and there caused me some pain, the novel exists for me to read them.  Mazzucchelli and Karasik particularly did a great job of making visual the theme of coincidence that runs through the book.  (In particular, pay attention to the girl Quinn meets who’s reading his book…does she makes a second appearance towards the end?)  I also found satisfying the places in which a drawing by Daniel’s son Peter crops up in the frame.  It serves as a visual depiction of the ways in which Peter Quinn and his death haunts his father.

The pages in which the illustrators work through Peter Stillman’s monologue are particularly striking.  The thought bubbles that emerge from (among other sources) cave paintings and inkwells emphasize the primal qualities of Stillman’s story, and make it visually engaging.

In one of his interviews (which escapes me at the moment), Auster spoke of others’ experiences attempting to adapt City of Glass into a film.  While his unorthodox and engaging dismantling of the noir genre would seem to lend itself well to a feature, the story’s stream-of-consciousness structure and interior monologues would make it a challenge to adapt.  Mazzucchelli and Karasik did a great job of bringing the book to another kind of page.  I’d love to see them make this into an animated feature film in the style of Renaissance.

 * = link NSFW, but you knew that.  “Honey badger don’t care.  Honey badger don’t give a shit!”  Also, hi Avak!