- Rooted in Place
304 Page; Print, $35.00
“Life has a fair for rhyming events,” says Ben Franklin to his grandson in 1775 in Richard McGuire’s Here, the long-awaited fulfillment of the author/illustrator’s pioneering comic book vision. McGuire is perhaps best known for his covers for The New Yorker, or as a director of animated films, a bass player in the no-wave band Liquid Liquid, a writer of children’s books, and a designer of toys. For those who follow the comic and graphic novel genres, however, McGuire came to attention in 1989, when a thirty-six-page version of Here was published in Raw. The full-length Here is McGuire’s first graphic novel, although the novel, in both its print and interactive e-book editions, challenges that very classification.
Throughout its unnumbered pages—dated, two-page artistic spreads that are permeated by frames, images, and words from other time periods—Here defamiliarlizes the banalities of life, of living, and of literature in both the traditional book and the traditional comic. The story in Here is nonlinear, but its nontraditional sequencing of events and temporalities is far from the novel’s most innovative formal experiments. The background spreads in the interactive e-book, which can, at times, even in its analogue counterpart, feel detached from the panels which pepper them and exist independently from the individual panels and independently from each other. On your tablet, you can read the novel in two ways: by swiping across the pages, you can read the pre-set sequence of events and the passage of time as it is published in the print version, or you can click on any panel, frame, or date to “shuffle” the contents, allowing new and unforeseen connections to arise. We, as readers, can each essentially create our own rhyme scheme for the work, and see it through as many combinations and configurations as our clicking and swiping fingers desire.
Here is set in the corner of a room (based on the author’s own childhood living room in Perth Amboy, New Jersey). Throughout its pages, Here shows us this corner as it changes over the course of time, from 3,000,500,000 BCE through the great flood of 2111, all the way to the re-emergence of life in the form of new species of plants and animals in 22,175. It offers a range of narrative styles, from traditional dialogue to the flip-book to text-less images, and a range of artistic styles, from watercolor to animation in the e-book version. And while it may be difficult to discern a plot in the traditional sense, Here’s combination of temporalities and styles certainly does tell a story, albeit one that may elicit its own readers as both generators of the text and co-authors of the elements that give it meaning. Much of what threads the panels together in a semblance of narrative are their connections, which are sometimes thematic—like a sense of loss or of joy or of the unstoppable sweep of time—and sometimes literal—a suite of panels showing broken objects across the twentieth century or a collection of insults slung across the decades. In both editions of the novel, the work falls on the reader to create the narrative that links these panels, many of which merely suggest connectivity.
“I’ve just had déjà vu,” a woman in 2014 declares upon entering the corner, and readers may identify. Repetition, in fact, might be a necessity for this kind of book, in which the connections that arise during the course of a reading constitute the meat of a particular configuration of frames. In Here, we may witness the repetition of an image or a theme at different times, or the repetition of a posture, a question, a family photo, a holiday. These repetitions, differently configured for each reading and for each reader based on their individual pattern of clicks and swipes, are what create the sense of character and plot, those traditional elements that help us as readers situate...