Lennon: The New York Years

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David Foenkinos is a French writer with many literary credits and much critical acclaim.  Many of his works have been translated into English, as have Eric Corbeyran’s works.  This includes The Call of the Stryx, Heavy Metal, Assassins Creed, The Frozen Child, Black Stone, and more. Horne is a well-known French comic artist.

This is a graphic novel—a work of fiction.  Having said that, it includes a huge amount of factual information about the life of the legendary John Lennon, iconic singer/songwriter and founding member of the Beatles, the greatest rock band of its era and arguably one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

The central conceit is based on fact.  In the mid/late 1970’s, John Lennon, living in New York, regularly visited a therapist.  This therapist may or may not have kept detailed records/transcripts of Lennon’s musings, but they will likely never be released to the public.

Foenkinos took the many facts of Lennon’s life and added pieces here and there to create a cohesive narrative that gives readers a picture of Lennon – not the iconic singer/songwriter, but the man who suffered and made many mistakes along the way.

The unseen therapist allows Lennon to ramble on, narrating with amazing candor.  This work of biography-as-fiction is a simultaneous combination of building him up and stripping away the myths.  Foenkinos’ use of language and narrative structure is tight and well-constructed.

Corbeyran’s adaptation is impressive.  Even as a translated text, it is difficult to tell that this was not originally written as a graphic novel.  His use of dialogue and narration works seamlessly to move the story forward at a very carefully measured pace.

Horne’s work is an impressive demonstration of the power of black and white.  He uses different panel and border structures to create emphasis and move the reader.  Isolated moments and close-up facial expressions serve to delineate important points, and Horne also uses repetition of significant panels to highlight certain themes, almost like a leitmotif in music.  Horne is not well known to many Americans, but this impressive achievement should change that.

This is an amazing graphic novel, but a lot of its interesting points are specific to those who already “know the story” at some level.  Readers unfamiliar with or disinterested in Lennon will likely find this uninteresting, but for those who remember/appreciate the man, his music, or the era of which he was so iconic, this is a fascinating study of one of the most significant artists of an era.

Written by: David Foenkinos & Eric Corbeyran

Illustrated by: Horne