The Rime of the Modern Mariner

The ecological message of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner receives a stylish and timely update in Nick Hayes's dazzling debut graphic novel. A newly divorced businessman sits down on a park bench to eat his bland lunch. Out of nowhere, the mariner joins him and abruptly begins his sad tale. Although Hayes relocates the setting to the Pacific Ocean in his retelling, the essence and style of Coleridge's poem remains. The seaman kills an albatross, but as it hangs around his neck, he sees that it was tangled in a bit of fishing net. The sea he looks out upon contains the same ethereal phantoms and vengeful, ancient gods as Coleridge's original, but also is riddled with the waste of man. Hayes's art combines the painstaking intricacies of an M.C. Escher woodcut with the poignant elegance of Marjane Satrapi; in parts, it complements the lettering so well that it produces an experience similar to reading an illuminated manuscript. --Sarah Borders, librarian at Houston Public Library

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