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The Canterbury Tales by Seymour Chwast

The Canterbury Tales (2011)

by Seymour Chwast

Other authors: Geoffrey Chaucer

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As much as I enjoyed Seymour Chwast's treatment of Dante's Divine Comedy, his Canterbury Tales never comes to life. Perhaps the success of Chwast's Divine Comedy was due to the inherently graphic nature of much of the Commedia and the sparseness of the comic's text—Chwast's Divine Comedy is something like a collection of single page posters of the most memorable scenes with little need for narrative. Chaucer's second masterpiece is an entirely different matter. The brilliance of Chaucer is both in the melody of his verse and in his varied, but often lively narratives, and this is something Chwast's comics cannot possibly deliver. Chaucer gives us a ribald Miller's Tale full of dirty slapstick. The infamous kiss in the dark and the vengeful poker to the bum are brimming with vulgar hilarity. Chwast gives us a stilted narrative with a zephyric pen and ink fart followed by what might as well be a scrub-brush to the bum. It isn't funny to see it. If the verses bring back giggling memories of raunchy middle school body humor, the comic embarrasses, reminding us of just how juvenile we once were. Much of the book seems to focus on Chaucer's ribaldry, and without any of the puckish charm of the English verses. These comic tales just fall flat amidst a swamp of limp prose narrative and boringly salacious imagery. ( )
  Tuirgin | Jun 19, 2014 |
OK so this was definitely a fun and very quick read. I know a lot of people complained about this book saying that it wasn't as good as the original, it didn't retain the pretty prose of Chaucer, the art was bad, etc. etc. However I think it was all of these things that made it entertaining.

Now, I have never read the full Canterbury Tales (although it is on my TBR list) but I think that this book was a pretty good introduction to the topic. Because the author didn't try to retain the original language it made the story manageable and approachable to people who otherwise may not read it. The crappy art made the bawdy nature of the story even more amusing. Chaucer, during his time, was writing in the common tongue was he not? He wanted his works to be accessible and easily shared and understood by the masses, which is what this book does. It makes the stories accessible to the masses in a format that they are familiar with.

So for that I really liked it and would recommend it to others! ( )
  Amanda.Richards | Apr 9, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I finally got a chance to sit down and read through Chwast's adaptation of the Canterbury Tales. It is a pretty simple take on the tales - condensing them and presenting them in comic form. Overall I enjoyed it, but wouldn't recommend it over any non-abridged version. ( )
  MikeKn | Jul 10, 2012 |
Oversize PN6727 .C499 C36 2011 + -- Olin Library
741.5 Chwast
  coolmama | Jan 4, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Until now, Seymour Chwast was known to me as one of the founding partners (along with Milton Glaser), of Pushpin Studios, a design outfit which gained international recognition and was especially active from the 50s till the 80s, when their off-beat and often irreverent visual style was part of the avant grade of illustration and graphic design. I've never read the original [Canterbury Tales], but the description on the back cover of this graphic version had me thinking this would be a good way to approach the tales, which I've always been intimidated of because of the Middle English text. I can't say I was overly impressed with Chwast's drawings, though their graphic simplicity was effective in conveying the stories and the overall tone was very amusing. This book did make me all the more curious to explore Chaucer's original tales, which is, after all what had attracted me to it in the first place, so in that sense this Early Reviewers book fulfilled my expectations beautifully. ( )
  Smiler69 | Dec 23, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Seymour Chwastprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chaucer, Geoffreysecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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To the memory of my mother, Esther Newman
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In the Tabard Inn in Southwark, Near London, the owner, Harry Bailey approached twenty-nine pilgrims.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Accompany a band of merry medieval pilgrims as they make their way - on motorcycles, of course - to Canterbury. Meeting at the Tabard Inn, the travelers, including a battle-worn knight, a sweetly pretentious prioress, the bawdy Wife of Bath, and an emaciated scholar-clerk, come up with a plan to pass time on the journey to Thomas a Becket's shrine by telling stories. The twenty-four tales, which range from high romance set in ancient Greece to low comedy in contemporary England, are adapted into graphic novel form by Seymour Chwast - a pitch-perfect transposition of Chaucer's pointed satire. Chwast's illustrations relate tales of trust and treachery, of piety and bawdiness, in an engaging style that will appeal to those who have enjoyed The Canterbury Tales for years, and those for whom this is a first, delectable introduction"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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