Good evening, fellow bloggers and readers. Shalom to you all, within a shelter from the raging storm outside (uh yes- tornado warnings and all). A dark and stormy night seems to be a suitable setting for this week’s read, as I greet you from Algeria. I just finished reading the adventures of Kitty in Joann Sfar’s graphic novel The Rabbi’s Cat. Ah, Kitty: his commentary kept me more than amused, start to finish.
This graphic novel was a vast contrast to another graphic novel I have read and love, Zorro. Unlike Zorro, Joann Sfar both wrote the text and illustrated the graphics for the novel. Isabelle Allende wrote the story of El Zorro, while Matt Wagner put the story into text, and Francovilla did the artwork. The artwork itself was really interesting. The Rabbi’s Cat has a much more apparent cartoon-feel. However, notice that Sfar creates distinction and importance through how detailed his characters are in each image. Check out the panels of Kitty on page 92, as he thinks seriously and nervously about his mistress’ pending marriage. Sfar also sticks with the more traditional graphic novel appeal: straight-lined panels that never alter in size, that consistently read from left to right. Francovilla took to a more modern and eye-catching approach for Zorro. He shows the reader which way to proceed: my eyes practically interacted with the action of the text, as his panels have fluctuating gutters, big images, and zig-zag sequences. Sfar’s gutters never change, but they are uneven and give the feel of homeliness. I actually liked how he used zooming in and out within his images because it gave me a more classic comic book-feel. I mentioned earlier of the storm I am enduring, which brings me to the use of color. Pages 103 and 108 have panels of gray and rainy images that define the family’s mood toward Paris. Panels of their home in Algeria are sunny yet tastefully muted in sandy colors. Interested now? That’s one of the best things about graphic novels: they feed one’s imagination visually as well as textually.
Oh, you know what? I believe that one of things that make this graphic novel the most interesting is the main character himself. Uh, for one, it’s a cat and the story is told from his point of view. Secondly, he’s not your typical protagonist. Okay. To be honest, Kitty can be a biased jerk. For instance, when Kitty’s master asks his rabbi for a Bar Mitzvah for Kitty, the rabbi responds no (as we are told arrogantly by Kitty’s thought bubble), yet his voice bubble reads “Tututut” (Sfar 17). Nice job Kitty, you’re a little vague on the details there. That is, the useless, contradictory, and unimportant details to Kitty are omitted to his liking. So, here we have a genuine unreliable narrator. Kind of scary, huh? Yes, it is indeed an experience to be under the guidance of Kitty. He reminds me of those people in your life who are brutally honest when they can find pleasure in it, and who lie, refracting, when they don’t want to be badgered. Basically, the types of people you may try to avoid from time to time.
Oddly, I found myself having one thing in common with Kitty: the habit of constantly questioning and contradicting religious beliefs. I, however, have more to say about Church, as a religious institution. Kitty likes to take things a step further and question the truth of God. He fires back after the rabbi’s rabbi states “that only God is true” and responds “that God is a reassuring myth. I say that he doesn’t have anyone to take care of him because he is old and his parents are dead” (18). Jeez, Kitty, seriously harsh much? The master asks the same question as I pose on the very next page. The questionably moral Kitty replies “I’m just trying to tell the truth, to see how it feels.” Yeah, I bet he enjoyed that way too much!
Go ahead, get to know Kitty for yourself and report back to me. I love graphic novels, more in the superhero line (you know how much I adore Batman), but The Rabbi’s Cat makes for a fun read too. Adios, my friends: until next time…if there is a next time? Let me know what you think! It’s been a pleasure writing to you.