Plum Village

I love comic books. Although technically what I love are “graphic novels”, which are issues of comics bound together into one paperback book that generally covers a story arc. A man whose opinion counts on such matters, Neil Gaiman, says we no longer need to use the term “graphic novels” because comics are now mainstream and recognized for their own artistic merit. However, I know no other term for a collection of comics other than “graphic novels”, so the name remains. At least for me. All this lead in and explanation is amusing because I am now reading a second of what is legitimately a graphic novel. A novel told in art and text. Should I call them picture books for adults? I need some serious help with labels here!

The first was the fabulous “Witchbody” by Sabrina Scott. (Read the review here.) Now, there’s “Plum Village: An Artist’s Journey: Finding Inner Peace at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist Monastery” by Phap Ban.

The author’s biography is compelling. A freelance illustrator discovers meditation at the age of 24 years old. This leads him to Plum Village, a monastery in France founded by Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. He eventually received ordination and 3 years later returned to his home country of Italy where he works as an artist for Disney. Who wouldn’t want to see that book?

What Ban has created with “Plum Village” is a visual love letter not just to Plum Village, but his journey while there. Somehow in riotous colors he captures the heart of stillness. With a beautiful montage of imagery, he demonstrates depths of gratitude. Never underestimate the power of images paired with words. Whereas Scott’s “Witchbody” was a transformative reading experience, Ban’s “Plum Village” evokes heartfelt emotions that on one occasion brought a tear to my eye.

This uptick in graphic novels in the mind, body, spirit genres is greatly welcome. Particularly if works like “Plum Village” are indicative of what we can expect.

You can learn more here.

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