Should the courtesy of spoiler warnings apply to works of non-fiction? After reading a Publishers Weekly Comics Week interview with David Small about his upcoming graphic memoir, Stitches, from W.W. Norton, I suspect they should.
In the introductory paragraphs to the interview, Sasha Watson rather baldly summarizes some of the key events of Small’s early life that are portrayed in the book. I think that this is an unfortunate choice, as the power of the book lies in watching these events unfold in the way that Small has chosen to reveal them. For an autobiography, the structure and pacing of events is astonishing, as is the elliptical way Small contextualizes those events – the facts of them coupled with the truth of them, which are very different things.
Any creator of fiction would be envious of the way the story reveals itself, I would think. That this much craftsmanship and rigor has been applied to an autobiography, and that Small has been able to be so deft in crafting the mechanics of a narrative without sacrificing emotional impact is almost miraculous. But first seeing those events and the secrets behind them formatted as a sort of laundry list would, I think, undermine some of the impact of Small’s achievement.
I can certainly understand the desire, even the necessity, of interviewing so talented a creator prior to the publication of his debut graphic novel. But wow, I’d be careful in revealing any events that are portrayed in the book, as it’s a breathtaking reading experience with little or no prior knowledge. I’m not sure how much of that thrill would survive if a reader had a checklist of key moments and revelations prior to simply experiencing them according to Small’s design.