I am not sure if what I read was the entire book of River of Ink by Etiene Appert or not as I found an online edition for booksellers via a newsletter I occasional get. It did feel complete, had a what felt like a solid ending; therefore, I am assuming, yes, I read all of Appert’s book. However, regardless of what I did read, I know I read enough to know two things: One: WHAT THE FLYING MONKEYS did I just read? And Two: Well, that was an experience!
The author starts his graphic novel with the seemingly innocent question of a child, “Why do you draw?” And instead of telling him a simple answer, we are subjected to a trip through time and space. We see the first person who drew. We see war. We see love. We see madness. We are taken on a lofty, arty mind trip through the inspirations and the whys of art, of drawing.
At times things are confusion. Not confusing; but confusion. There is chaos on the page. Which is the point. I think. The abstractness of the concept of art comes to life in a way that will not be comfortable. The artist reader might appreciate things differently from the “average person” (whatever that might mean). You most likely will have to work at it. This is not an easy book. I am not even sure if there was a point to it when the dust settles. Yet, I do know that this book is something you take your time with and try and experience slowly, steadily and with open eyes. A surreal feeling interview between the author and an artist who has influenced him ends the adventure.
Appert is also the artist. The art is as wandering, meandering as the text. There is little color, focusing on what is important, what the artist wants to highlight. Everything about the book is both intriguing and off-putting. While teens can read it, I would more likely recommend this book to adults. This is partly due to the art being suggestive in mature manners. Yet, nothing is “obscene” or to “shock” just not for all readers/viewers. And while the madness of the art and the text is contained on the page, I am not sure it is locked down.