Saturday, February 26, 2011

Slavic Review review

Slavic Review, the membership journal of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) and a leading publication in my field, has just published Karen Ryan's (University of Virginia) review of my book in their new issue (Vol. 70 No. 1, Spring 2011).

All in all Ryan gives me a thumbs up, with some minor complaints which I've heard from other reviewers. Some highlights:

Following the cultural turn recently taken in Slavic studies, José Alaniz makes a case that
Russian comics (komiks) should be regarded as a serious art form with a respectable provenance.
His book is the first major English-language study of komiks; it will be of interest,
not only to students and scholars of Russian culture, but also to comics aficionados in the
transnational sphere.

Alaniz’s accounts of the exhibitions, installations, and performances of Zhora
Litichevskii and Gosha Ostretsov, members of the ArtKomiks movement, are fresh and
perceptive; he writes with the enthusiasm of an active participant, which gives his scholarly
prose an unusually vivid quality.

A fascinating case study—both aesthetically and socioculturally—is
that of Nikolai Maslov, who published his autobiography in the form of comics in France.
The scandal that swirled around Siberia exposes the petty jealousies and factionalism that
have riven the comics industry in Russia.

This volume includes many illustrations of komiks, most black-and-white but some
reproduced in color in an attractive eight-page insert. Alas, almost all of the illustrations
are small, making it difficult to read the interpolated text and to see visual details. Quite
likely, producing larger reproductions of examples was prohibitively expensive; this critical
study thus suffers from the same sort of financial limitations that have hindered the
development of the komiks industry in Russia.

Although the author’s tone is usually neutral, he is clearly a devotee of and an advocate for komiks.
Those who do not share his enthusiasm
suffer from “comicsophobia” and persist in regarding comics as “disposable, contemptible,
possibly dangerous, ‘foreign’ trash” (112). I suspect that many Russians are less passionate
about comics than he implies; Alaniz interprets indifference as hostility, and his slightly
didactic tone can be off-putting. He prescribes a change of attitude; the stated goal of
his study is “to demonstrate that Russians might do better simply to accept, appreciate,
and enjoy komiks as a wayward part of their artistic patrimony, and welcome them home”
(141). Unfortunately, with a couple of notable exceptions (such as Maslov’s work), the
examples explicated in this book do not persuade us that the effort would be repaid at
this moment in time.

My thanks to Dr. Ryan and SR for the review!

1 comment:

  1. Sorry about the formatting issues. Can't seem to fix it.