The Book’s Better.


They say that there’s a broken light for every heart on Broadway.
They say that life’s a game and then they take the board away
They give you masks and costumes and an outline of the story
Then leave you all to improvise their vicious cabaret
In no longer pretty cities there are fingers in the kitties
There are warrants, forms and chitties and a jackboot on the stair
There’s sex and death and human grime in monochrome for one thin dime
And at least the trains all run on time but they don’t go anywhere
Facing their responsibilities either on their backs or on their knees,
There are ladies who just simply freeze and dare not turn away
And the widows who refuse to cry will be dressed in garter and bow-tie
And be taught to kick their legs up high in this vicious cabaret

At last the 1998 show!
The ballet on the burning stage!
The documentary seen upon the fractured screen
The dreadful poem scrawled upon the crumpled page!

There’s a policeman with an honest soul that has seen whose head is on the pole
And he grunts and fills his briar bowl with a feeling of unease
Then he briskly frisks the torn remains for a fingerprint or crimson stains
And endeavors to ignore the chains that he walks in to his knees
While his master in the dark nearby inspects the hands with brutal eye
That have never brushed a lover’s thigh but have squeezed a nation’s throat
And he hungers in his secret dreams for the harsh embrace of cruel machines
But his lover is not what she seems and she will not leave a note

At last the 1998 show!
The situation tragedy!
Grand opera slick with soap!
Cliff-hangers with no hope!
The water-color in the flooded gallery

There’s a girl who’ll push but will not shove and she’s desperate for her father’s love
She believes the hand beneath the glove may be one she needs to hold
Though she doubts her host’s moralities she decides that she is more at ease
In the land of doing-as-you-please than outside in the cold
But the backdrops peel and the sets give way and the cast gets eaten by the play
There’s a murderer at the matinee, there are dead men in the aisles
And the patrons and the actors too are uncertain if the show is through
And with sidelong looks await their cue, but the frozen mask just smiles

At last the 1998 show!
The torch-song no one ever sings!
The curfew chorus line!
The comedy divine!
The bulging eyes of puppets, strangled by their strings!

There’s thrills and chills and girls galore,
There’s sing-songs and surprises!
There’s something here for everyone,
Reserve your seat today!
There’s mischiefs and malarkies
But no queers
Or yids
Or darkies
Within this bastard’s carnival
This vicious cabaret!

I don’t generally read “graphic novels.” Gave up comic books in my teens. I confess I’d never heard of this one before the buzz about the movie. Didn’t read it until I’d seen the flick.

The movie is good clean fun. The book is mind-blowing.

The movie is light entertainment. The book is incredibly dense; not at all light reading.

The movie’s heroine starts out as Natalie Portman, who is transfigured into Natalie Portman with a buzz cut. The book’s heroine starts out as an interchangeable and rather mindless little cipher, who is transfigured into something awe-inspiring.

The movie’s cast is a standard collection of stock characters. The book’s cast is dense with vivid characterization; hideous and beautiful and estimable and pitiable, often at the same time.

The movie’s climax involves a whole bunch of people committing a single act of civil disobedience through the tactic of wearing silly masks while witnessing property damage. The book’s climax destroys an old world, with no guarantee that its replacement will be an improvement: It’s all up to you.

The movie is enjoyable. The book is way better. Neither will change your life in any meaningful way, but only one is great literature. Never thought I’d use that phrase to describe a graphic novel, but there it is.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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One Response to The Book’s Better.

  1. lewlew says:

    Spot on observations, Joel. Tee and Zander gave me the graphic novel for Christmas and I wasn’t let down by all the banter I’ve heard about the book.

    My only major complaint about the graphic novel is I didn’t care for Lloyd’s illustrations of the younger male characters. I had a difficult time telling them apart by sight.

    I liked Gordon Dietrich’s character and story line contribution better in the movie. In the book, he came across as an awkward blip whose only point was to move Evie back toward V again.

To the stake with the heretic!