In his discussion of the “big, ambitious novel,” James Wood dismisses both male and female authors but singles out Zadie Smith's White Teeth for most of his critique of what he terms “hysterical realism.” For Wood, recent long novels display too much imagination but not enough substance and depth of character; the new novel has become “a picture of life.” With its deliberate foregrounding of inhumanness and spectacularity, Emil Ferris's My Favorite Thing Is Monsters commits many of Wood's list of transgressions against the traditional novel. This article examines how Ferris's book is unaffected by negative reactions to this transgressiveness, championing transgression and ignored voices as the mode of expression best suited to the big, ambitious novel of our times. The book's heroine and purported author of the book touches readers and moves them through the monstrous form she imagines for herself. Her reproductions of comics covers and art works negotiate diverse visual vocabularies and their resulting aesthetic and historical scope. In filtering its story through a young protagonist who is marginalized on all counts (age, class, race, sex, sexual orientation), Ferris's “big, ambitious (graphic) novel” is also a layered response against the criticisms of childishness levied against comics. Transgression in My Favorite Thing Is Monsters becomes a way of rethinking tradition—of comics, of novels, and of graphic novels—in the broader terms of cultural history.
“Kill the Monster!”: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters and the Big, Ambitious (Graphic) Novel
Maaheen Ahmed is associate professor of comparative literature at Ghent University, Belgium, where she is currently leading a multiresearcher project on children in comics. She is author of Openness of Comics (2016) and Monstrous Imaginaries: The Legacy of Romanticism in Comics (2020). This article is an outcome of the COMICS project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement no. 758502).
Maaheen Ahmed, Shiamin Kwa; “Kill the Monster!”: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters and the Big, Ambitious (Graphic) Novel. Genre 1 April 2021; 54 (1): 17–42. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-8911485
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