At dinner on Friday, a friend recommended I check out Rene Engström's Anders Loves Maria--about which, as usual, it seems I'm the last person to know. So of course I spent all afternoon yesterday reading all of it. So, so great! And how much do I love that she experiments throughout with different styles, like this one? Just...awesomeness. And so much work!
Of course, my friend recommended the strip because it takes place in Stockholm. The main characters have an apartment in Gamla Stan, as Jan and I did until a year ago, and it's such a treat to recognize the streets they walk. Reading the comics, I felt so relieved to totally participate in something artistic and cultural taking place in Stockholm--in English, that is. Of course, there are plenty of ways to get local Stockholm culture in Swedish, but I find it much harder to connect with it. (Comic strips in Swedish are often totally incomprehensible to me, even if I understand every word. Just as with picture books here, it seems that the shorter the artwork, the harder it is to "get" in a foreign culture.) I got a little bit of a "connect" watching the first Stieg Larsson movie, but that didn't have as many Stockholm city scenes as I'd hoped, and the serial killer storyline seemed so completely outlandish and un-Swedish, it wasn't delivering the recognition goods for me.
But Rene Engström's strip really got my brain spinning, thinking about the importance of artwork--especially the power of stories--in establishing an emotional sense of place. I've been thinking a lot about the idea of "place" in different ways ever since high school, and especially since moving here from New York almost five years ago. There's something about Sweden which seems so *blank* to me, which is really frustrating and hard to articulate. Have I just been too isolated from the cultural and artistic life all around me, to really see what Stockholm *is*? Can I create my own cultural and artistic work to help myself frame Stockholm in more emotional terms?
Am I making any sense?
But go check out Anders Loves Maria, though I suppose I should be all prudish-American and warn that it does contain sex and nudity...