Graphic Novels can be beautiful, informative, funny, moving and sad. Rufus Marigold is all of these. Rufus Marigold is the alter ego of the author, and he is living with anxiety. He is depicted as a hybrid man/chimpanzee – successfully placing Rufus as ‘other’ but also as ‘familiar’, for we see Rufus’ world through the distortion of his anxiety, where he is an outsider, un-liked, a failure.
Right from the outset we are given the level of Rufus’ anxiety – he is so traumatised by the phone ringing he ends up eating from the can of cat food he is about to dish out! And the nightmares continue – meeting people on the street, at work and gulp! at job interviews! All the other characters in the novel are drawn as human, except for a coach/trainer, who is portrayed as a man/orangutan, a person Rufus hates for being so confident and whose friendly interactions he is offended by.
One of the funniest/saddest moments is when he finds in Søren Kierkegaard a kindred soul, only to discover he died over 150 years ago. And one of the most disturbing is his inability to deal with a medical emergency when walking through a park. He can’t even manage suicide when he is confronted by a pigeon on the roof he intends to jump off.
The graphic novel elements of the book are superb, easily navigated, easily read, great use of separating pages and wonderfully illustrated. Amid the funniness and extreme situations there is a clear message about how debilitating anxiety can be, despite how supportive and caring those are around you. It will be a kindred book for those who suffer extreme anxiety, and an informative and reassuring read for those who do so in a milder form – which is just about everyone, including chimpanzees.