Jason Lutes talks about the rise of fascism and his epic "Berlin"

Jason Lutes' Berlin is close to 600 pages long. It took over two decades for him to produce -- a graphic novel that's both focused on a time and place, and yet sweeping in scope and ambition. It's about the rise of the Nazi Party in 1920s Berlin... but also about culture, politics, and the daily lives of ordinary and extraordinary people caught up in tumultuous times.

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"Lutes's labors are the stuff of legend," Ed Park wrote inThe New York Times last fall, after the third and final volume of the three books that make up Berlin was published, along with a single volume that combines them all. "The magic in 'Berlin' is in the way Lutes conjures, out of old newspapers and photographs, a city so remote from him in space and time." The book traces the fall of the Weimar Republic through the stories of a teeming cast of Berliners, including Marthe Müller, a young woman scarred by World War I; Kurt Severing, a journalist losing faith in the printed word as he watches the rise of fascism; and the Brauns, a family beset by poverty and politics.  

Now you have a chance to hear what went into those labors. Lutes, who lives in Hartland and teaches at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, will be reading from and talking about Berlin on Tuesday, February 26 at 6 pm. The event, sponsored by the Yankee Bookshop, will be at the Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock. "We would have been happy to have it in the store," says Kari Meutsch, one of the bookshop's co-owners, "but the artwork is so important that we wanted that to be part of this, too -- and the library has a screen and a projector."

In a way, Lutes's appearance is a chance for you to dip your toe into the world he's created. "When you can sit and listen to an author for only an hour and get a taste of what went into the making of the book and what the story is about, then you're learning something new and you just might decide that you want to read it," says Kristian Preylowski, who owns the bookshop along with Meutsch. 

"The story for me is an exploration of a specific time and place," Lutes told Publishers Weekly last September. "I wanted to understand what life was like for people from different social strata as earth-shaking events unfolded around them, so my main task was to immerse myself in their world. From there, I followed the characters to see where they would take me, the hope being that my curiosity would carry over to the reader." If you haven't already dived into Berlin, then Tuesday's your chance to get a sense of where Lutes's curiosity carried him--and might carry you.

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