The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

Sometimes admiration makes you chatty. How many people read Karl Ove Knausgaard and just have to tell you about him?

Other times, admiration strikes you dumb. This is one of those times.

Maybe one reason why I have very little to say about my admiration of The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is because I don’t often read graphic novels. In fact I’ve been kind of an asshole about them in the past. Which leaves me ill-equipped to articulate what’s so great about the ones that really grab me.

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a 300-page graphic novel about the birth of the country of Malaysia, told through the biography of its greatest (fictional) comic book artist, using every style you can think of: sepia-toned realism, bright bursting Sunday newspaper panels, superhero action sequences, sketchbooks, painted portraits, political propaganda posters, etc. It seems that author Sonny Liew is fifteen different talents in one. This book is art. It’s history. It’s a slippery biography of a fascinatingly realistic character.

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Although it’s only March, I’ll be gobsmacked if The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye isn’t on most people’s Best of 2016 lists. Go to your local bookstore and lay down $30 for this singularly impressive story. You’ll love it.

Brian Hurley is Books Editor at The Rumpus and an editor at Fiction Advocate.

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