I am as much a Joe Sacco fan as anyone—no, that must be wrong; I am an average Joe Sacco fan. Perfectly run-of-the-mill.

What Sacco excels at is storytelling, and in examining himself as he examines the world around him. His drawings journalistic. They are appealing enough, but they’re not  the appeal.

With Zeina Abirached’s A Game from Swallows excerpt in the latest Words Without Borders, I don’t feel I’m learning new facts about Beirut. The war fractured the city: check. But Abirached’s stark, sometimes veined, sometimes deathly life-portraits of a city don’t require an exciting narrative. I’m reading just to see where the imagery will go next.

Albert Cossery‘s Proud Beggars is set in the “squalid underground” of Cairo and billed as a classic, although I suppose I find it more of a period piece myself.

Ah, and I’m still mourning Magdy Shafee’s Metro. While it perhaps wasn’t high literature, it could’ve heralded a new way of reading in Egypt.