My review on "Stitches" by David Small
David Small: ...I intended something truer to my own experience, growing up surrounded by x-rays. At six I knew that x-rays were pictures of the secret places inside us. I imagined myself going down into those shadowy places and finding--what? I don’t know. A better world, I suppose. That is what I had in mind but, as I said, I have no problem at all with the Alice reference.
In an interview with Amazon.com
David Small in his graphic memoir “Stitches” is the explorer of the deepest of human’s inner life. He tells his heartrending story about his illness and the process of being used for scientific experimentation by the “Soldiers of science” and their modern weapon X-Rays. He mockingly portrays these Nazi-like soldiers as “heroic men featured in the ads in Life magazine” (p 27) and their message that the miraculous X-Rays which could see through everything even metals would cure anything. The result of this experimentation is that he develops cancer then loses his voice after the procedure: “I soon learned, when you have no voice, you don’t exist.” (P212)
Demonstrating this terrifying scientific experimentation, Small is forced to take a journey into the enigmatic world of unknowns, digging irresistibly for the truth. Through his painful invisibility, despite the loss of his youth, Small discovers a magnetic voice inside him. Poetry of drawing! Through his empowering voice, his invisibility becomes visible in the eyes of those who know the art of seeing. His voice becomes essential as Antoine de Saint-Exupery describes in the Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye”.
The subversive and subjective elements in “Stitches” remind us Francisco Goya’s paintings with social truths as images in this book of art could be reminiscent of our own life in the essence. The connection is clear and representative by one’s sensitive memory of childhood with a symbolic centipede shape stitches running down one’s neck. A lonely soul who dreams Gilgamesh- like dreams and nightmares, imagining a fetus running after you, looking at forbidden books, falling in love with characters in the particular books…and standing up for your own truth.
Although Small describes the tragedy of his own life in relation with his family, but it can be expanded to a broader perspective, a broad reader and to a larger humanity such as those who live under tyrannical societies, those living in wars, being invaded by foreign sources, even prisoners who are treated as strangers in this world.
The novel punches you repeatedly with effective punch lines such as: “I gave you cancer”, “Your mother doesn’t love you” and “Do you know what our utility bill is going to look like?” Or the illustration of sound languages in his alienated house: the slamming of kitchen cupboard doors Whap, Whap by his mother…or the sound of his father pounding on the punching bag: “Pocketa, pocketa….and Ted beating on his drum: Bum, Bum, Bum…and his own language, getting sick.
“Stitches” has many layers. It brings to mind great literature such as Woyzeck, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Little Prince and Charles Dickens’ stories…More than anything else it resonates the story of our own life.