Sometimes it’s hard to argue with the pedigree of a book. Deborah Levy, Booker Prize-shortlisted author has adapted her short story Stardust Nation as a graphic novel, illustrated by Andrej Klimowski, Emeritus Professor at the Royal College of Art. Top that, everybody else.
Tom Banbury’s success in advertising comes from his ability to infiltrate the unconscious minds of consumers and convince them to buy what he is advertising. We only glimpse his work incidentally, however, as the book is more about his relationship with his colleague Nick, who is remembering Tom’s unhappy memories as his own. When Nick becomes unwell as a result, we meet his sister who informs Tom that her brother responds to the illness of family members. When they get ill, he gets ill she says, ‘so it’s lucky that none of us are mad, isn’t it?’
Of course, Tom does appear to be mad. We glimpse this through signifiers such as the strange transformations of appearance – when presenting a new marketing campaign he is feathered, with his arm sleeved in nails – no doubt linked to his deeply traumatic past. Tom and Nick are drawn to appear very similar, but Tom looks more predatory, with animal eyes. One of the central questions of this book is whose actions cause this bleeding from mind to mind? Is Nick invading Tom, or is Tom outsourcing his symptoms to Nick so he need not feel them?
This is a highly original graphic novel, spare and elegant in the writing, striking and sophisticated in the art. It’s a book that certainly lives up to its pedigree, and is another excellent SelfMadeHero release – Pete Redrup, The Quietus