A wordless poem, a silent sonata: 64 pages in 4/4 time
Posted January 30, 2012on:
I needed a well-scrubbed, de-cluttered, pristine flat before I could appreciate this fine graphic novel, which had been lying around in a pile of clutter for several months until today.
The author is Bryan Talbot, who was a comic artist with, I am told, a god-like reputation in England at the time he decided to publish this under a pseudonym. It was a departure. But if you are familiar with Bryan Talbot’s work you will know that he doesn’t fit comfortably into any genre and that he likes to take risks and go off at a tangent even within a single work.
This story is very focused, though. I like it a lot. It’s wordless and told in crisp, black and white images that are playful, repetitive and poignant. I found it very moving. It’s the story of a man and a woman whose natures make it impossible for them to be together. Some people might see the story as simplistic but I like the simplicity of it. It strips down the relationship to its essential constituents of erotic need and emotional isolation. Some of it is funny. I laughed out loud on page 52 and my flatmate dashed across the room and started reading over my shoulder. “Let me scan it and post it on Facebook!” she said.
“No, certainly not!,” I cried. “It’s important to protect the artist’s revenue potential! This has not been a big earner for him.”
I read the rest of it in silence in my bedroom, which was most appropriate given what happens on pages 66 and 67. (The 64-page story starts on page 4, by the way.)
I’m intrigued by successful artists and writers who, at the height of their fame, publish quirky little books under a pseudonym. On page 35, in panels 13 and 14, the shadows behind the bridge crossed by the lovers spell HOAX. This hoax may not have made much money for Bryan Talbot, but it has made me want to read more of his work. He’s still alive, I think, so I hope he’ll get a little frisson of pleasure when he gets his next royalty cheque and notices a slight uptick thanks to the largesse of a certain erotically inclined Asian by the name of Vanessa Wu.