I just read this graphic novel by Sebastien Samson.
I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.
The medium of the graphic novel is an odd one, constantly being usurped by collections of comics which possess no meaningful story arc or singular plot. But novels in graphic form do exist. My New York Marathon is one.
The story is fairly straight forward, and there are no spoilers here. A man, Sebastien, has some friends who decide to run the NY marathon. He also decides to run the marathon. He’s not very athletic and his friends are, yet he does some manner of training. He does run the marathon. He thinks about things before, during, and after, and makes a lot of sketches. The art is cartoony but pleasant.
The whole thing is very mild, and it has to be. The crux of the matter is an unpleasant ordeal 42km long, but millions of people do this ordeal every year for fun. If the story got gritty and dark, it would come across as being absurd.
Sebastien never falls into that. He thinks, he runs, he thinks about running, and while there’s nothing really new, it’s very human. There’s a very accessible person on the other side of the page. He talks about his wife. The little bits of friction and cute little moments come together to form an extremely enjoyable narrative relationship. There’s obviously filtering going on, but what’s there is simply nice. Sebastien’s talks with his principal, various doctors, and other runners are all very much real people.
When you read something about people from other lands, even if they come to your land, you want to read something about the people. Who are these humans? What are they like? This book answers that. This is a runner, he’s not in great shape but he kinda likes it, and these are the people he knows and the places he lives. The book gives you a sense of self.
What really surprised me about this was how enjoyable it was without really having a plot. The guy runs a marathon. That’s it. The stakes don’t rise much, and even the climax, the running of the marathon itself, isn’t really a shocking incident. It’s well done. He talks about the wall at 15 miles, the excited anticipation, all those things, but there’s no real interpersonal conflict. There’s a bit of man vs self, but he’s not trying to destroy himself. He’s trying to overcome being lazy. And 26.2 is no joke.
This was a story sublimely appropriate for a graphic format. It reads so easily that the lack of grit and the effortless read fit the moderate battle of self vs self. It just works. It hits the balance, its stride, and cruises along to completion.
It really surprised me. I expected to be bored and wasn’t. I stayed up late to finish it the day I got it.