The fresh face of youth, complete with a cute smirk, is such a fleeting thing. Meet Corinna Park. She thought she’d take the big city by storm, have wildly witty friends, and knock out her first novel by sundown. In the graphic novel, “Shoplifter,” Michael Cho guides us through the life of a new generation’s Holly Golightly.
Similar to Truman Capote’s young lost soul, Corinna has big dreams but no focus. Unlike Holly, Corinna does not seek comfort in empty chatter amongst her empty friends. In fact, Corinna is a willing prisoner of empty gestures indulged in solitude. In the end, both Holly and Corinna, spend a lot of time talking to their cats. Corinna also has a big flat screen to lose herself in with nonstop coverage of airline jet mishaps and documentaries on polar bears. And like Holly, Corinna’s vague dreams for something new will eventually collide with something else, perhaps reality.
This is Michael Cho’s first graphic novel but it is hardly his first work in comics. With a seasoned professionalism, Cho brings to life this young woman and her struggles. We really feel for Corinna as she fights to make her life more real and less theoretical. There is a pleasing signature style that holds all this togehter. Cho revels in sweeping arcs that instantly define space and omission of lines that make figures pop with vitality.
Cho has a wonderful novelist’s sense for twits and turns. There’s a richness to this 96-page book that will satisfy and hold up well upon rereading. Cho gracefully gets inside the head of Corinna. I’ve considered lately the best way to present a character’s thoughts. From what I see and know, narration boxes will never go out of style. Cho is a fine example of that. It’s just a matter of balance and artful placement. Cho enjoys it, playing with both text and image, and giving us some of the best windows into a character’s mind that raise the whole thing to a poetic level.
Another interesting touch to the story is Rodney, the head of the ad agency that Corinna works for. Rodney represents all that is good and bad about advertising. There is passion for work but then there is a self-conscious need to justify the work with pretentious posturing. Ultimately, Rodney will be the first to tell you, if you can’t stand the heat, then please get out of the kitchen. There’s really no room for endless questioning. But Corinna has questions. It will be up to her to point them right back at herself.
“Shoplifter” has two-color illustrations throughout and is available as of September 2, 2014. It is published by Pantheon, a division of Random House. To pre-order, visit Random House right here.