I grew up not just reading but consuming books. I devoured Melville and Salinger. Later, I ingested Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. These books became a part of me. Thus I myself was inspired to create. I’ve written a few short stories, poems, plays, etc. If I took in other writers’ creations and made them a part of myself, then my act of creation was the opposite: taking a piece of myself and pouring it out onto paper through ink. It is to this act of literary creation and the consumption of said creation that One Week In The Library speaks.
One Week In The Library details seven days in the life of the… custodian… librarian… guardian… of the titular Library. And it is a Library with a capital L, as it is the grandest of libraries, the quintessential library. If you were to look up the definition of library in this Library’s dictionary, it would display a picture of you holding the dictionary, reading the definition of the word library in the Library. It exists as the ultimate place to remain and bask and indulge in and consume and become terrified of and grow to hate books.
We get a glimpse of these seven days and what occurs to the guardian during this time, and each day is a parade of classic literary characters and stories told through a distorted lens. The guardian takes us through his responsibilities, which seem to include janitorial and accountant duties, but all this normalcy is set against this living, breathing Library, in which the stories defend themselves from being dog-eared and characters literally climb from their pages in varied and often different manners than we are used to.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears make an appearance, only the bears are feral and referred to as Ursas Major, Medium, and Minor, though a large bowl of porridge still comes into play. Goldilocks is a young woman named Marigold who suffers from psychotic episodes and is taking anti-depressants. Each time we see these distorted yet easily recognizable stories, we are reminded of how easily stories can be interpreted differently based on who is doing the reading.
The guardian, weary of his time alone in the Library, seeks to escape, and that escape turns out to be more than he bargained for. And then… well… the last day of the week certainly comes with its fair share of surprises which I will not spell out entirely, but that you will probably be able to infer as you read the rest of this review, because you, no doubt, are smart as a whip.
What I Think
One Week In The Library brought me back to the days of my youth, when I watched the movie The Pagemaster, starring Macaulay Culkin and Christopher Lloyd, in which Captain Ahab, Dr. Jekyll, and other classic literary characters literally leap from their pages. Books, in fact all creative works, are magical devices that transport you to realms of wonder, adventure, tragedy, and insert any other type of genre ever. One Week certainly brings that sense of the magic of books to the forefront, as the books pour forth their characters and plot directly into the life of the guardian and that is fabulous. Very few books, ironically enough, can truly express that to the fullest. Some might hint at it, but One Week In The Library hits it out of the park. And seeing as how that sense of magic is one of my favorite reasons to read, that really rang true for me.
Apart from the cover, which I LOVE, the art just strikes me as ok. I couldn’t point to any spot in it and say “This part is what turned me off” but I also couldn’t point to a spot and say “This part was AMAZING.” I do appreciate the pages where things get weird, trippy would be an accurate descriptor, because then the art style becomes a bit more expressive. Otherwise it would be best to describe it as functional.
No, the true star of the show is, fittingly, the story and content of One Week In The Library. It is a brilliant creative choice to come to understand more about the guardian of the Library as we see his week unfold one day at a time. We get these allusions to other creative works such as Beauty and the Beast, the Addams family, even Pokemon. These inclusions feel almost like winks from the author, as if he is sharing an inside joke with us.
But what truly sets One Week In The Library Apart is its theme of creation and consumption. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the ending of the graphic novel delves heavily into what it is like to be part of an act of creation such as a graphic novel: it is a terrifying experience that certain crazed individuals willingly throw themselves into.
Think about it. When we as creators engage in that creative act, we pour pieces of ourselves into our papers, or in even my case at the moment, keyboards. It is necessary. In order to make the words you readers read mean something more than just a collection of letters, we have to imbue them with life, and that life has to come from somewhere. I’m not saying I give away minutes of my life each time I write a word… oh wait, I actually do. These things take time to create, they take energy to create, they take sacrifices to create. Right now, as I’m typing this review, it’s time I am NOT spending with my children, NOT spending working, making money, time I’m not spending sleeping.
And then, AND THEN, after we creators have thrown valuable time and energy into what we believe to be something truly worth sharing, we do just that: we share it with the world. And it will either be greatly loved or subject to the sarcastic derision and spite so common on the interwebs. Or even worse it will be completely ignored, lost amongst the virtual ocean of content created each day. And that’s terrifying.
One Week In The Library is an exploration of the author’s inner library complete with its neuroses and quirks, strengths and flaws. He lays it all to bear for us to see, in an even more literal sense than most authors. And it is this honesty between the author and us, the readers, that makes One Week In The Library unique and awe-inspiring. The author drops the false bravado that we as creators don’t really care what people think of our work; that we are immune to the slings and arrows that critics and readers throw at us and simply relates to us as a person: a vulnerable, messed up person just like you. Just like me. And it reminds us that if we would stop to consider that every other person on the face of the planet is as vulnerable as we are, we might all be more willing to lend a helping hand in overcoming those weaknesses.
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One Week In The Library is a trippy exercise in the relationship between author and reader, told through distorted versions of tried and true stories such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears. While its art is nothing special, its brutally honest and non-apologetic depiction of the author’s innermost fears and neuroses truly make this experimental graphic novel one worth jumping into headfirst.