City of Glass, the first of The New York Trilogy released by Paul Auster is composed as a metafictional postmodern detective narrative and adapted into a graphic novel in 2004 by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli. The main character David Quinn (cleverly the same initials as Don Quixote) descends into madness as an inner struggle to come to terms with reality becomes apparent when he reads Stillman’s book on Paradise Lost. This is where Quinn learns about a binary opposition life and consciousness offers humanity. The bottom frame on page 38 contains three narrative boxes: “Stillman claimed it was only after the fall that human life as we know it came into being”; “For it there was no evil in the garden, neither was there any good”; “As Milton wrote: ‘it was out of the rind of one apple tasted that good and evil leapt forth into the world, like two twins cleaving together’” (38). The artwork in this section of the graphic novel can explain the intentions of the illustrators.
|Surprisingly someone had the exact page open to where I'm talking about |
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Karasik and Mazzuchelli decided to include a tremendously more intricate illustration in this frame compared to the comic-esque frames of the graphic novel. The two illustrators imply an artistic binary opposition in their adaptation; without frames that could be considered “good” in the graphic novel, there cannot be “evil” ones, and vice-versa. Good/and evil might not be the best way to describe the frames throughout, maybe crude and detailed would serve a better purpose. This detailed frame reflects the innocent nature of humanity intricately and a paradox becomes apparent within the illustrations.
The next frame after the illustration of The Garden of Eden shows a somewhat crude comic of god pointing down at Adam and Eve: “Stillman dwelled on the paradox of the word ‘cleave,’ which means both ‘to join together’... and ‘to break apart’” (39). By the inclusion of “paradox” is significant and the dialogue in the next intricate frame on the top of 39 confirms this suspicion: “Stillman, suggests ‘in Paradise Lost, each key word has two meanings - one before the fall, free of moral connotations, and one after informed by a knowledge of evil” (39). How can something have two different meanings depending on an otherworldly power’s paradoxical punishment of permitting two simpletons without a concept of good and evil to follow even but a single rule? The two meanings become apparent once the realization that the graphic novel is an adaptation. City of Glass the novella and City of Glass the graphic novel must be interpreted differently.
The paradox of the detailed frames containing images before the fall, “free of moral connotations” juxtaposed to the crude images depicting life after the fall “informed by a knowledge of evil” can be explained with interpretation of the rest of the dialogue on page 39 (Each ellipse is a new box of dialogue):
“Adam’s task in the garden had been to invent language...In that state of innocence, his words revealed the essences of things...A thing and its name were interchangeable...After the fall, this was no longer true...names become detached from things..Language had been severed from God...The Story, therefore, Records not only the fall of man, but the fall of language.”
The passage becomes symbolic of the real life Paul Auster who wrote the original novella. “Language had become severed” from Auster: Karasik and Mazzucchelli had taken it upon themselves to prove that “names become detached from things.” They had taken a novella and created something truly unique with layers of interpretation graphic novels hadn’t yet had the time to expand into the literary world when the graphic novel first came out. The ambiguity of “things” indicates this change from authorship that is also illuminating throughout the novel. Their adaptation “records not only the fall of man” referring to Auster, but also “the fall of language” where illustration in the novel become most important in understanding it’s completion is a work of art and should be accepted as a genre in literature.