One (Graphic) Story

August 23, 2013
The new issue of One Story contains a graphic by Matt Madden.
The new issue of One Story contains a graphic story by Matt Madden that can be read forwards or backwards.

One Story magazine has published a number of colorful tales in its 11-year history, but this month, for the first time, it’s going graphic. Literally.

The issue currently being mailed to subscribers is by cartoonist Matt Madden, who is co-editor with his wife, Jessica Abel, of the “Best American Comics” series (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

One Story editor in chief Hannah Tinti has been wanting to publish a graphic story in her magazine for a long time, but couldn’t find the right piece. “I’ve been a fan and an avid reader of comics and graphic novels for most of my life,” she tells me via e-mail. “The problem I faced was that many of the graphic novelists I met worked in auto-biographical/memoir form, and if One Story was going to take the step into graphic literature, I really wanted to keep the other aspects of the magazine intact — to publish a high-quality piece of fiction.”

She ran into Madden a few years ago at a literary festival in France and discovered his “99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style” (Chamberlain Brothers), a graphic response to Raymond Queneau‘s famous avant-garde book from 1947. They discussed the possibility of publishing something in One Story, but nothing seemed quite right at that time.

Earlier this year, though, Madden sent her a copy of “Drawn Onward,” a graphic story about a star-crossed romance on the New York subway. Tinti immediately loved it. But the new form posed new challenges, and she wanted to make sure it would work in the magazine. “We had to get a heavier weight paper,” she says, “get the design right and make sure the images were printing correctly.”

But those technical requirements aren’t the only innovations in this issue. Madden explains on the One Story Web site that his tale is a graphic palindrome. Two characters “have the same experience moving in opposite directions, crossing paths fleetingly in the middle.”

That, too, is a first for One Story — but not, probably, for many subway riders.

@RonCharles

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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