Friday, 18 March 2011

26/111 – Vignettes of Ystov by William Goldsmith

This is another title I picked up during my work experience at Vintage. Before staring there, I hadn’t realised that a lot of their imprints were working together on the same floor, let alone in the same building. Jonathan Cape is one of my favourites, because not only do they publish great fiction, but they also publish quite a few graphic novels which is marvellous.

This isn’t going to be a long review, because it’s such a quick read, although what’s inside is whimsical and slightly absurd, but in that good way. As the title suggests, this graphic novel is a series of vignettes which take place in a bleak and slightly Eastern European-ish city named Ystov.

There are several main characters – the poet Eugene Tusk who spends his time reminiscing over his now-disbanded poetry society. He also searches for clues surrounding the arrest of his artist friend for ‘nose-crimes’. Then there is the story of the janitor who has transformed his home into a museum of rubbish, complete with glass cases and an imagined history of everything he displays. I also loved the story of the two children acting as match-breakers, rather than match-makers. The artwork is like nothing I’ve come across before – it’s all hand painted in what looks like watercolours. Sort of rough around the edges, but very charming and tangible.

These seemingly unconnected events and lives brush up against each other briefly, but never really touching. There is a strange sort of quality to these stories. They are brief (only two pages each), and with little text, and yet somehow they work beautifully, and are completely successful in conjuring the feeling that they set out to. Even though they are brief, they are oddly satisfying. Recommended if you liked Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You.

Next time: Light Boxes by Shane Jones.

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