Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A time and a place

A curious and original graphic novel that developed out of a comic strip created for RAW back in 1989, Richard McGuire's Here tells the history and the future of one specific geographical spot - largely the corner of a room, though not merely that. The timescale stretches back as far as 3,000,500,000 BCE and runs through the era of the dinosaurs, through initial encounters between Dutch settlers and American Indian natives, through the house's construction, occupation and destruction, and on into the near future (2213, when a tour guide explains what a watch, a wallet and a key are to a bunch of bemused visitors) and distant future (22,175, when strange creatures and enormous flowers once again dominate the scene).

A regular contributor to the New Yorker and founder and bassist of no wave band Liquid Liquid, McGuire is clearly interested in the passage of time and its effects - as evidenced by the depiction of the ritual of having annual family photos, and by one panel showing the room being decorated followed by another showing the same wallpaper being stripped off years later. However, the panels generally don't appear in the strict chronological order that would create a linear narrative. On the contrary, McGuire uses juxtaposition and undertakes chronological jumps to tell stories that the reader often needs to piece together.

Neither are the individual panels themselves uniform. McGuire's trick of superimposing framed images from other years onto one larger background picture deliberately shatters the chronological coherence of a single panel, instead drawing parallels and teasing out threads between different years - perhaps the best case in point being the panel that shows the piano being played in 1964 and characters "simultaneously" dancing to its tune in 1932, 1993 and 2014.

As this clumsily expressed review might suggest, Here and its effectiveness are difficult to explain but it certainly rewards investigation and reflection.

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