life is like a parfait glass full of ice cream

i loved to read as a child. it was my escape from what i understood to be a dull existence; a practice i could indulge without inviting the disciplinary actions that followed my excessive television watching; a solitary activity that filled up hours and hours and hours of time. for a class early in my master's program, i wrote a paper reflecting on my relationship with reading and detailed the distinguishable periods - e.g. american plays, teen angst, the russians, old south, new south, etc. - yet made one glaring omission: indian comic books. that's right, a collection of comics known simply as amarchitrakatha - three words slurred together to indicate the vast world of comics created for children (and presumably the occasional adult) to learn about indian history, mythology, culture and religion. i had stacks of them and to this day can recall specific frames from stories. my grandmother, who was my other primary source for all things indian mythology-related, and i would carefully go through the comics together - the only kind of book i would ever involve another person in the reading or experiencing of - and compare her version with the version in the text. often, the brief retelling found illustrated and captioned would prompt her to launch into more detailed and nuanced versions that would fill up the afternoon. her voice is often connected to story frames etched in my mind.

this evening, as i (once again) walked through the campus bookstore, i came across a text that i hadn't seen before. the title on the thin spine read "introducing cultural studies" and the image on the black, glossy cover is a cartoonesque old-time, parfait glass filled with an assortment of fruits, and colorful scoops of ice cream, and is topped of with sprinkles, a cherry, and lovely slice of pineapple. i couldn't resist, so i added it to the pile of books in my hand (including one on vegetarian grilling) and headed upstairs to the cafe. as i began to flip through the pages, that were light on text and heavy on the images, i felt a familiar sense comfort and pleasure. it wasn't that i hadn't read the work stuart hall or pierre bourdieu before, but experiencing the juxtaposition of a dialogue bubble coming out of a bourdieuian bust alongside no-frills commentary gave those earlier readings and discussions new life. it felt like the catalyst i've been wanting... and i am reveling in the form, perhaps more than the content at times - of this use of cartoon drawings, rules of comic engagement, and text that doesn't always stay within the lines. this is cultural studies that makes me laugh and think at the same time - not something i can (always) say for hall... and it's not that the issues being raised are always a laughing matter, but rather the irony that undergirds much of social life is sometimes better illustrated through the absurdity of image than pages of text. i'm only halfway through the book and will write more when i've gotten all the way through.

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