"Kill the Monster!": My Favorite Thing is Monsters and the Big, Ambitious (Graphic) Novel
Authors: Maaheen Ahmed and Shiamin Kwa
Source: Genre, Volume 54, Issue 1, April 2021
Publication Type: Article
Abstract: Emil Ferris’ My Favorite Thing is Monsters is a richly drawn and intertextually rich and referential work which is, at its midpoint, already several hundred pages long. The novel’s protagonist, Karen, is a gay were-girl of mixed ethnicity, keeping a journal about the death of her upstairs neighbor, a scenario that challenges the criticism implied of being “not fully alive, not really human.” My Favorite Thing is Monsters combines fantastic, popular and artistic images and tropes to construct its narrative. In this way, with its deliberate foregrounding of inhumanness and spectacularity, it is easily guilty of many of the transgressions against the traditional novel listed by Wood. Our essay examines how Ferris’ book refuses to feel guilty about its transgressiveness, championing transgression as the mode of expression best suited to the big ambitious novel of our times. Trauma narratives often defy language and insist on alternative modes of expression that capture its impact. Contrary to Wood’s criticism, Karen touches us and moves us through the monstrous form she imagines for herself. Her reproductions of comics covers and art works are beautiful and sublime in their negotiation of diverse visual vocabularies and their resulting aesthetic and historical scope. Further, in filtering its story through a young protagonist who is marginalized on all counts (age, class, race, sex, sexual orientation), Ferris’ ‘big, ambitious novel’ is also a layered response against the criticisms of childishness levied against comics. Transgression in My Favorite Thing is Monsters becomes a way of rethinking tradition – of comics, of novels, and of graphic novels – in the broader terms of cultural history.