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Binding art and text in a narrative marriage, Nick Bantock takes us to the Forgetting Room, where he teases ...
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Binding art and text in a narrative marriage, Nick Bantock takes us to the Forgetting Room, where he teases us through a tale of discovery, revenge, alchemy, and Moorish legend.
Author Biography: Artist and writer Nick Bantock is the author of the best-selling Griffin & Sabine trilogy. The Egyptian Jukebox, The Venetian's Wife, and The Forgetting Room. He lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest.
Armon's final artwork, meant to justify his long personal journey, is actually less impressive than his first drawing — in keeping with Bantock's also ponderous style with its New Ageish idioms that ultimately recall Chopra more than Lorca.
Until I was eleven years old I spent my vacations with my grandfather Rafael and grandmother Marianne in their house in a small village thirty miles east of my home city of Geneva. Almost every day I'd sit in Grandfather's studio watching him paint and listening to him talk about whatever came into his mind. Mostly his words were too grown-up for me and sailed blithely over my head, but his deep, gentle voice was as reassuring as the warm cocoa Grandmother plied us with on winter afternoons. At the end of each day Grandfather would clean his brushes, stand, shake himself like a large dog, and proceed with my ritual drawing lesson. I basked in his full attention, and the rudiments of draftsmanship came easily to me, though it was hard to tell whether this was brought about by his good teaching or my enthusiasm.
In 1972 my father's factory, la Compagnie imperiale des boites de carton (The Box), was amalgamated with a U.S. firm, and Father agreed to supervise a new plant in Chicago. In the same week that he signed the contract that committed our family to life on a different continent, a forest fire engulfed my grandparents' house and burned it to the ground. Instead of rebuilding, my grandparents decided to keep the insurance money and move to my grandfather's family home in Ronda. For a reason not clear to me, and despite my family's imminent departure to America, I felt deserted by my grandparents' retreat to Spain.
Although he wrote to me regularly, and I occasionally responded with a short letter or postcard, my grandfather and I never saw each other again. The close company we once kept seemed to act as a barrier that I was unable toovercome. The memory of my innocent acceptance of his caring was a threat to the self-contained person I became. For his part, Grandfather twice planned to visit us in the States, but on both occasions Grandmother's failing health prevented their trip.
Three months ago my grandfather died, leaving me his house. I was confused by his death—I wasn't ready for him to die and felt quite unworthy of inheriting his property. Financially it was the windfall my bookbinding workshop needed, but the idea of selling my grandfather's house troubled me deeply. I decided to fly to Spain to see the property before I put it on the market.
The bus ride from Malaga took me through Torremolinos, Marbella, along the northern coastline of the Mediterranean, and it made me irritable. When Rafael was a boy there must have been an almost uninterrupted view of the sea from the road, but now it was blocked out by a seemingly endless parade of candy-pink condos and pasteboard hotels. I've always hated that kind of inane uglification. And to see it perpetrated in my grandfather's homeland made it all the worse.
The climb into the mountains lifted my spirits, though the winding roads left me sleepy and I must have nodded off. I surfaced again on the approach to Ronda. Through the window I took in the great wedge-shaped hill and saw my romantic expectations both confirmed and damned. To the left, perched high on the edge of an almost vertical escarpment, were the baked amber and white walls of an ancient fortress town, but to the right, leading away from the old stones, a small urban sprawl trailed its way down the long, steady slope of the hill's spine.
When I got off the bus I discovered the terminal wasn't on my antiquated map and I couldn't work out where I was. I had a moment's panic, but it passed and after randomly threading my way through the narrow streets I bumbled into the elegant confines of the Plaza del Socorro.
I sat at the cafe on the corner of the square, with my bag secure between my legs, and let out a long breath. I liked the place. The square was friendly, large enough to accommodate a herd of noisy kids playing soccer, but not so big (like its Italian counterparts) that it would cause agoraphobia.
I had an hour to kill before my five o'clock appointment when I would pick up the keys to my grandfather's house. Once I'd ordered a drink I permitted my mind to return (for the millionth time) to my chief preoccupation—the frustrations of running an archaic one-man business on a shoestring. Disposing of Grandfather's house in order to subsidize the workshop seemed my only course of action, but it felt disrespectful, and I was trying to ignore my discomfort over the inheritance by being ultrapractical about a quick sale. If I'd still been married to Catherine, I'm sure she would have tried to get me to articulate my ambivalence. She would also have argued that the influx of money be used to cut back the number of hours I worked. I liked the amount of time I spent in the workshop; it gave me a sense of purpose.
Even in its imaginary form, it was a very old argument, and as usual we were speaking different languages. My internal conversation with Catherine fell silent, as our real ones often had.
On the plane I'd been picking fitfully at a volume of quotes, seeking out suitable lines to incorporate within Ex Libris labels. When I opened the book again I found myself confronting the dry words of E. Arnold—
Never shalt thou build again these walls of pain . . .
Ye suffer from yourself . . . and whirl upon the wheel,
and hug and kiss its spokes of agony.
Posted December 28, 2001
As someone who very much enjoyed Griffin and Sabine, I have to say that this book was a let-down. The story is not very engaging and its resolution is a bit of a yawn. I also can't say I'm a big fan of Bantock's collage art, which this story is centered on. Gluing things found on the ground or in one's pocket, and then scraping it off again is not my idea of good art. This book has its good moments and some good art, but all-in-all you could skip it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 16, 2000
Bantock is a clever story-teller, who weaves a delicate tale in his story The Forgetting Room. Fanciful, and Exotic, Bantock will pleasure your senses with this enjoyable book. I read it on a simple winter afternoon, and was enthralled. I have since given this gem of a book out as a present to my fellow book lover friends, and recommend it highly. Bantock as an author is incredible. A timeless, ageless jewel of a story, for young and old, and all book lovers in between.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 23, 2012
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