Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot

June 24th, 2008 at 6:38 am

Cover of \"Alice in Sunderland\" by Bryan Talbot

Alice in Sunderland is technically a “graphic novel,” but an unruly, bursting, whimsical one that makes the experience of interacting with it engaging and fun. It often forgoes the frames of traditional sequential storytelling in favor of busy scrapbook-like collages that reinforce the intricate, intertextual, interwoven, self-referential story about a story about a story (ad infinitum) motif that defines and dominates this graphic novel. It is a reading experience unlike any other you’re likely to have.

With the premise of some bloke wandering into a theater, the reader of Alice in Sunderland is taken on a schizophrenic and tangential trip through the history of England in general and Lewis Carroll and his infamous and influential work Alice in Wonderland in particular.

The book is big (almost a full foot tall and 8 inches wide) and long (319 pages!) and colorful (red! blue! yellow!). It’s a very ambitious work and quite impressive. Its scope would be considered “high-concept” as it consistently squirms away from any one genre or aesthetic or subject like a stubborn kid wiggling away from a smelly aunt. It explodes with tidbits of trivia and random facts with pictures and photographs and drawings of every color and style. It is a veritable kaleidoscope of imagery and ideas and history and culture and art. If it were made into a movie, Baz Luhrmann would have to direct. Maybe Terry Gilliam.

Overall, Alice in Sunderland is a little too researched and too little crafted (or maybe over-crafted) and a lot too much indulged. Many times I turned a page and muttered, “You think you’re so clever…”

But I was quite satisfied with Talbot’s achievement in Alice. The scale and style and ambition of it all are notable. And entertaining. When it doesn’t drag. Which it does sometimes. Especially at the end. I was really ready for it to be over already.

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2 Responses to “Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot”

  1. i saw so excited to see that such a book exists. other folks who are just as obsessed with alice & carroll. it’s on my to-read list as soon as i finish my mistress’s sparrow is dead (highly recommend, btw).

    worth purchasing?

  2. I dont know whats bigger, the size of the book or the gigantic font you decided to use in the post :)

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