Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review: Chemo Schmemo


New Yorker and Glamour cartoonist Marisa Acocella Marchetto, in her mid-forties, was ready for her marriage to A-list chef Silvano Marchetto, owner of DaSilvano. During a regular swimming session, Marisa realises that there’s a lump in her breast, which starts a cascade of worries and aggravations. Suddenly everything falls apart: Contradictory information from doctors, friends, and family members; questioning Silvano’s ability to love during such an ordeal (like an ox though, he stays by her side throughout); and hearing anecdotes and seeing the aftereffects of cancer and of chemotherapy – all of this makes up Acocella Marchetto’s graphic memoir, Cancer Vixen: A True Story, now out in paperback.

The art within Cancer Vixen is playful, even when it’s painful to read about, which shows a strength in the artist’s ability and conviction to the story. She’s unafraid to go into some unfortunate territories, like that of the mammogram or how her breasts became the focal point of her life as she was unable to think about anything else (there’s a great image of her eyes becoming breasts within the book). One of the more shocking parts of the story is that Acocella Marchetto has to get the chemo needles into her drawing hand, which is a frightening thought as she makes a living doing sketches with that hand; and we watch as she almost has a meltdown thinking that this chemo may takeaway more than her hair and her privacy and her energy – but also her livelihood.

Cancer Vixen, like most graphic novels, balances the grim with some humour. Perhaps the pacing wasn’t perfect, as it sometimes felt hard to turn the page (the material within might have something to do with that too); I found myself wanting to put it down after a couple of minutes. But, having an aunt who’s going through such chemo sessions right now, I found the book to be informative and original and perhaps even helpful to understand what it’s like to be under such duress and stress – how brutal cancer really is and how wonderful it is to have people who love you around you.

Marisa Acocella Marchetto will be doing a reading and signing at the Barnes & Noble in Greenwich Village at 7.30pm tomorrow.


J.T. Oldfield said…

I know some book bloggers who could really use this right now. I'll point it out to them. 🙂

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said…

I love this blog so much I can hardly stand it. You got me. It is very well written, well done.
Thanks for sharing,