Ann Tenna: A Novel
Graphic Novel by Marisa Acocella Marchetto
240 7x9-inch pages, color
2015 Knopf hardcover
In Marchetto's second aventure into the graphic novel genre (her first in 2006, Cancer Vixen, a memoir of her 11-month victorious battle with breast cancer, reviewed in the Usual Place, RCHarvey.com, Rants & Raves Archives, Opus 205), Ann Tenna is a fashionable New York gossip columnist whose power has seduced her away from “her true self,” as the dust jacket blurb tells us, continuing: “It takes a near-fatal freak [car] accident on her birthday — April Fool’s Day — and an intervention from her cosmic double in a realm beyond our own to make Ann realize the full cost of the humanity she has lost [and to enable her recovery].
“Told with laugh-out loud humor, spot-on-dialogue (including via cameo appearances from Coco Chanel, Gianni Versace and Jimi Henrix), [the book] is a timely, necessary [satiric] tale for our overly ‘media-cated’ times.”
The New York celebrity-oriented story is not the sort of tale that interests me—too brimming with “with-in” witicisms — and I don’t pretend to have actually read it (see Book Marquee rationale above), but I’ve thumbed through it enough to appreciate what Marchetto has accomplished here by exploiting the capacities of the medium.
Billed as a New Yorker cartoonist (whose cartoons appear occasionally in the magazine, the most fashionable and high-fallutin’ cartoon venue in the country), Marchetto abandons the conventions of her single-panel cartoons for that publication in this novel. Herein, she produces some of the wildest visual variations on comic-strip/comic-book storytelling, breaking out of page layout grids and using a parade of symbols to achieve her objective—in which Ann Tenna recovers her humanity at last (sigh).
In short, this volume could well serve as an inspiring example of one of the many ways the graphic novel form can be deployed to tell stories that other narrative modes (the prose novel the epic poem) cannot achieve. And Marchetto’s experimental manner gives her story a pictorial excitement that enhances its satirical comedy.