Coincidental with refreshing my love of Corita Kent's abundant creativity, is my reading of Bryan Talbot's newest comic book Alice in Sunderland. And what a comic book it is. Hard to classify, for sure. While it is an exploration of the roots of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland; it is also a discussion about art, imagination and creativity; it is a meditation about context and meaning; it is a wild collage of images sketched, painted, colored, photoshopped; a playful linking of relationships in a six-degrees-of-separation kinda way.
It is both a truism and good advice to writers to say that we write what we know. And Talbot is making a most excellent case for the truth of this in Carroll's case. I've read both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass a number of times, but i've never bothered to look very deeply into Carroll's inspirations for the figures and ideas that permeate our modern world (our euro-american one, at least) so thoroughly. I am startled to note how influential are these two fantasy adventure books. (This happens to me all the time with Shakespeare as well.) Talbot does a remarkable job of drawing links - some speculative if persuasive - between the geography of Sunderland and that of Wonderland. And he creates a very ricj and thick description of a world long gone of which Lewis Carroll was a product, participant and, ultimately, a legacy.
The best works of art, i think, are those that fill you with the urge to create your own. Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being is like that. As are Corita's serigraphs, dian marino's earthblankets, Ursula LeGuin novels, Raymond Carver's short stories, Mary Oliver's poems, Nick Bantock's collages, and more. And now i add Alice in Sunderland to that list.
The Beguiling (my local favourite comic book shop) is co-sponsoring a talk with Bryan Talbot on April 16th at 7:00 pm at the Merrill Collection of the Toronto Public Library. Can't wait.