Isn't great when a book has a lovely, organic story of development? Seth was approached by the New York Times to contribute a regular strip. He submitted three ideas and they chose the one he admitted to being least interested in: a character study of an elderly television broadcaster who was previously an explorer. His slight aversion to the project probably stems from it being similar to his previous work, Wimbledon Green a clever character study of a legendary comic book collector told through anecdotes from the people who knew him.
And this is where things started to get interesting. Aware of the need to produce smaller bite-size chunks for the serialization format and concerned that if he stuck rigidly to a narrative, readers may forget what happened in the previous episode, Seth made each published strip self contained moments in George Sprott's life and, significantly, out of chronological order.
When he was finished and was considering publishing the work as a collection, he decided to maintain the non-linear storytelling but add in some extra work that the previous serialized format had not allowed. This scatter-shot approach to the story invites a meditation on time and Seth obliges with a prologue that asks metaphysical questions. Are we not made up of fractured moments and who's to say which moments have a greater impact on shaping our lives, or leave the most lasting impression when we're gone?
Yes, these questions have been raised before (the most recent reminder, that of Chapter IV of Watchmen) but I've not seen the concept presented with such room to breathe. The downside is that with Seth being so non-judgmental about George Sprott we can be left feeling a little empty about him - we're not used to seeing so much detail about a character and then left to our own opinions. Also whilst the oversize format suits the scope of the subject it doesn't necessarily bring anything to the art and makes it a little cumbersome to read.
Nevertheless this is an extraordinary piece of work that I feel surpasses anything he's done before. All the themes and ideas that have interested Seth regarding the struggle to make something with one's life and yearning for the past are here but George Sprott and his world are far more nuanced and the book really does succeed in conveying the random nature of memory or, as Seth suggests the non-linear nature of time.
I also loved the photographs of buildings from the story that Seth has built out of cardboard and decorated. It was a measure of how real he felt the world of Sprott. A whole life has been captured and reflected. How do you feel about it?
In Store £19