Friday, July 25, 2008

'99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style'

by Matt Madden

Graphic Novel, 2005
Chamberlain Bros. (Penguin USA), pb, 203 p.
Matt Madden’s Exercises in Style is a series of engrossing one-page comics that tell the same story in a variety of ways. Inspired by Raymond Queneau’s 1947 work of the same title, a mainstay of creative writing courses, Madden’s project demonstrates the expansive range of possibilities available to all storytellers.
This was a really fun look at storytelling. Starting with this as the template, he came up with so many creative variations of the same story. Sure I didn’t love all of them and some of them were a bit silly but I think that’s the point. It certainly showed that there are numerous perspectives and ways to approach a seemingly simple story. I haven't read Queneau's book that this was inspired by, although I've heard of it, and I am curious how he could write one story 99 different ways since in some ways I think drawing multiple versions would be easier than writing them. Regardless, just like the book itself proclaims on the cover, I think this would be quite inspirational to those who write or work on film or any other kind of storytelling.

From L-R: Horizontal, Manga, Cento (David Mazzucchelli, Ben Katchor, Chester Brown, Marc-Antoine Mathieu, Daniel Clowes, Art Spiegelman, Julie Doucet, Gary Panter)
Click on photos to enlarge.
*Illustrations © Matt Madden
Interview with Matt Madden in The Comics Journal

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#30 for 2008, Graphic Novels Challenge)
Reminder: If you have read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.


  1. Hi Nat :)
    Wanted to let you know how beautiful your header is, georgeous rose.

    I am also interested in SHUTTING OUT THE SUN and how you like it.

    Hope you have a nice weekend

  2. OH wow, this one sounds amazing! I'll have to check it out because I think I feel a project brewing for one of my new grad courses.

  3. Madeleine- Thank you! I was actually thinking it might be time for a change again as I've had it up for almost 2 months I think. :)
    I'm almost done with Shutting Out the Sun so I should review it next week. It's been an interesting, if sometimes discouraging, read.

    Andi- I think you would totally love this book and it would be great as a teaching tool.

  4. Sounds interesting. I didn't know there were graphic novels like this!

  5. This does sound good! My husband hasn't heard of it, which surprised me, but now he's interested too.

  6. Rebecca- I didn't either. I first heard of this from another blogger, although I've forgotten now who it was.

    Wendy- It was interesting and amusing at times too. Thanks for the idea to pick up a graphic novel to take a break from the NF I'm reading. It was just the thing! :)

  7. What an interesting idea for a book! I'll have to check this one out.

  8. Nymeth- It is a really great idea and was fun to see all the variations he came up with.


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