The Adventuress

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007
by Audrey Niffenegger
Maybe I should preface this by saying I have yet to read The Time Traveler's Wife. It's on the pile, but I have all of these library books with a ticking clock on them that keep butting in line. To mitigate that (admittedly large) lack, I will say that not reading the book she's best known for is no barrier to being a huge fan of Audrey Niffenegger and her weird, beautiful, sad but perfectly satisfying stories.

I read and adored her other illustrated novel Three Incestuous Sisters. The Adventuress is also an illustrated novel. (not to be confused with a graphic novel or a regular novel novel.) There are not many words, but the pictures communicate so much! I don't know.. there's something magical (to me, anyway) about how images enter the mind: such a biological/ mechanical process to get to the poetics! Rods and cones, nerves and cells all delivering pulses of light (or you know, whatever) until they hit the brain (more squiggly cells slathered in brain juice to keep them moist and from rattling around like a dry nut in a shell)... and those impulses and flashes of biology are transformed into these beautiful universal metaphors; little love notes from the collective unconscious. I don't know how to describe it. I see a fairly simple image of a moth girl eating a library (one of my favorites), and it's like getting a pleasant but unmistakable shock to the central nervous system.

As you may have noticed in the picture, this novel features Napoleon rather heavily -- I don't think I'm giving too much away to say that The Adventuress and Napoleon engage in a love affair. (the caption to the photo on the right (click to enlarge) is: All the books were about Napoleon; Being a moth, she ate them all.) I won't describe the plot, because there is no point without the images. (Oh, all right! I concede that it would make sense in some fashion with just the words or just the images. But they're so wonderful together! and lucky for my point of view, that's how they're available, so there.)

...speaking of Napoleon (dig my subtle segue!), Mystery Man on Film has just concluded an outstanding series of posts on Stanley Kubrick's never-made Napoleon epic. I found it fascinating. If you missed out as it was happening, the link above will take you to a post collecting them all.
5 comments on "The Adventuress"
  1. Aw, The Adventuress is waiting for me at the library, so I will save your review until I have read it. I did just this weekend read The Three Incestuous Sisters--which I believe is an adult illustrated novel. Love her illustrations and the quirky jumps of her story line. Since I have continued to read children's illustrated books all my life, I applaud her work gratefully, and look forward to The Adventuress--oh, and to The Time Traveler's Wife. Would love to see one of the handmade edition of The Adventuress...

  2. I dunno about this term "adult illustrated novel"... it sounds like you need to pick it up from the bookstore or library in a plain brown wrapper! And while it's true that The Adventuress never wears a top, it's not really that kind of book.

  3. Hey there,

    Thanks so much for your very kind words. Studying Kubrick's script was just a labor of love.


  4. Well, thank you for making this labor of love available to the masses! I found it very edifying and entertaining.

  5. Ohhh... So you're the one other person who actually read it. Hehehe... Thanks so much.

    Take care, Jen.



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