Spring 2002

Letter beyond words

The Gryphon: In which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine is Rediscovered

Nick Bantock
Chronicle Books £14.99, US.95

In mainstream fiction, the use of image and text is largely confined to books composed with children in mind – a field that demands a playful and experimental approach to communication. The Gryphon, written and illustrated by Nick Bantock, falls somewhere between children’s and adults’ publishing.

This magical modern fairytale follows the correspondence of two lovers whose lives are changed when they receive a letter from the mysterious Sabine. Bantock’s playful approach to narrative, wherein each spread features a postcard or letter, draws the reader deep into the intimacy of the correspondence.

The Gryphon is the latest in an innovatively conceived and beautifully crafted series, preceded by The Golden Mean, Sabine’s Notebook and Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence. Bantock’s approach to storytelling provokes an intense emotional engagement with the narrative, reflected by his devoted readership (particularly in the US).Through a sequence of handwritten letters and elaborate illustrations, the reader is invited to recreate the experience of the characters. Time and distance are portrayed without the need for added descriptive text. We actively construct the narrative, piecing together the visual, the verbal and the textual.

The success of Bantock’s work demonstrates the potential of sophisticated multi-sensory literature and reveals a role for graphic designers in the cultivation of a more expressive form for the narrative fiction.

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