Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 44

Hark A Vagrant!

by Kate Beaton
Genre notes: history, literature, humour
168 pages
ISBN: 1770460608 (Amazon)

It takes a steady hand to string together an intricately woven, deeply nuanced plot. The number of authors who can take a handful of seemingly contrived elements and produce an elegantly composed narrative admixture are few and rare. Plot-heavy literature, when it succeeds, is a wonder to behold; but in its failure, we find little to surprise us. So when I describe Kate Beaton’s Hark A Vagrant! as paean to complex plot structures and hail it as deviously devised, I hope you’ll pay attention. The book is a marvel.

Of course some might blanch at seeing Beaton’s book described as plot-driven, but those are simply people who have not yet grasped the book’s primary aim, the goal to which it aspires and ably reaches. If Hark A Vagrant!'s single-minded storyline is to be described in succinct terms, here is probably the simplest explanation: Hark A Vagrant!'s plot is the story of how Kate Beaton made me laugh more than any author.

Hark A Vagrant! presents a collection of historically- and literary-minded humour strips that run the range from dry witticism to baudy toiletries. Being a fan of both history and literature probably helps a reader appreciate the particular kind of crack that Beaton’s cooking up, but there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit as well. Some of my favourite bits were a series of strips in which Beaton takes covers of Nancy Drew mysteries and extrapolates a scene or plotline based on those singular images. As well: there’s a bunch of Canadian stuff I didn’t get. Sorry Canada for knowing next to nothing about your history or culture (though I did recognize Louis Riel!). Beaton also does this wonderful thing where she’ll add commentary to select strips, somehow further ennobling the experience (and sometimes actually educating or at least piquing curiosities).

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