Sunday, October 23, 2005

Waiting For Nick Bantock

I can't get over my glee at having scored my two Nick Bantock books (see previous post below)!

For those who haven't yet encountered Nick Bantock's works, he's an artist primarily and an inventive writer next (his writing showcases his artworks and vice versa). I first learned about Bantock a decade ago, from my friend Moni.

Bantock was the first to create a physical art form out of the genre of the epistolary novel. The Griffin and Sabine series of six books (two box sets of three) -- a fantasy, mystery and romance all rolled into one -- unfolds in a series of letters exchanged by two unlikely but intriguing characters. By physical form I mean on each page you will find an illustrated facsimile postcard or letter in an envelope that you can actually remove, unfold and read. If you secretly enjoy the voyeuristic thrill of reading other people's letters, you'll enjoy this series, his most famous work among many.

Amazingly, the first set of three G & S books Joy and I managed to complete by visiting the National Bookstore Main Branch in Araneta Center in mid-'90s. This was in the old days before the completion of the Gateway mall complex and the glossy-but-welcome facelift it gave the formerly seedy and pedestrian Cubao. The books (Griffin and Sabine, Sabine's Notebook, and The Golden Mean) were all on sale (old display copies, I think). We found them -- in wonderful condition -- on different trips by methodically searching the entire 4th floor which is now the area called "Previously Owned Books". (All book lovers, if you don't know it yet: this floor stocks discounted excess lots of trade titles, with bargain prices averaging at PhP 250 to under PhP700 for hardbound books, and PhP 100 to under PhP 500 for regular paperbacks and trade paperbacks.)

On other sales through the years we were able to find Nick Bantock's The Venetian's Wife (hardbound), The Museum at Purgatory (hardbound) and The Forgetting Room (trade paperback size -- ), but these were at assorted bookstore sales. I'm not sure if they are also set in the Griffin-and-Sabine universe, but they do exude that same indefinable mystery. They're so profusely and wonderfully illustrated!

My only sorrow in this happy tale is that someone who once read my Griffin and Sabine in our living room removed the beautiful dust jacket and put it aside (read: now the dust jacket is forever lost, or worse, possibly creased and folded to boot). Can try to find a pristine one on eBay as a last resort, hehehe.

Next on my list to find: Bantock's The Artful Dodger (his autobiographical illustrated book). It's now past midnight and I'm looking at Bantock's works online, drooling. But I'm patient. I mean, I waited in line for six hours just to get Neil Gaiman's autograph. I can wait till the next sale!