A review by Wilna Panagos
An illustrated fable by Jesse S. Mitchell (Author) and Håkan Eklund (Illustrator)
Paperback: 34 pages
Publisher: Stella/Stefanya Press (November 1, 2013)
Reviewed by Wilna Panagos
The apocalypse has come and gone and here we are in Simon’s hot, dusty world with brief time-travelling insects, furtive animals and overgrown debris. And there are trees. And of course there is Simon, Simon who explores his abandoned world barefoot. Simon whose world is a mystery to him, his mind unmarred by preconception. Simon who finds things and names them anew. Simon who sits cross-legged. Simon who learns from his accumulated curiosities. Simon who is alone in this world until he meets a dog. Simon who is about to make a ripple.
Jesse Mitchell uses deceptively simple prose to weave this world and being-in-the-world, delicately layered and infused with deftly created detail, lucid and evocative, phosphorescent with its own yellow golden light. Humming under its breath with music. And of course there’s Simon, Simon who remakes his broken world, who replaces what is lost. Here all the enormous and necessary things start with something small and unsuspected.
Håkan Eklund’s idiosyncratic artworks add nuance and texture to the narrative rather than merely illustrating it, a separate window on Simon and his world rather than a snapshot of Mitchell’s window. Eklund uses the minimum of means to achieve the absolute maximum account. Strong and nimble dark lines, shivering and bending with constraint energy, an unabashed white, sparingly applied to illuminate the hot and derelict yellow and the unexpected moonlit carmine. The barest hint of the third dimension. That’s it, and it’s enough. Exactly right to reveal his singular vision of Simon’s world, simultaneously ironic and compassionate.
I was dismayed when I reached the end of this graceful and compelling tale. I didn’t want to say goodbye to Simon and leave his world, imperfect and dangerous as it might be.
But leave you must and you take with you the whispered suggestion that we can shape ourselves and restore our broken world. That, although it is a daunting task and the world with its inherent peril is precarious, “It was frightening, especially when you remember just what life can do”, but with a bit of care and luck it can be navigated and it will certainly be worth it.
“He worried he would breathe it in, even a little bit, and he was no worthy receptacle for all the beauty he saw. Even the smallest bit would probably explode him. It pressed down on him from outside, the joy, the splendour. His skinny legs shook. There was a lot to see, you just have to be alive enough to see it.”
“He put his hand up over his mouth, instinctively. He had to remember to breathe, he had to make himself remember to breathe.”