Review: Griffin and Sabine – an Extraordinary Correspondence

Griffin & Sabine trilogyThese three, small books fall somewhere in the intersection of artwork and fantasy, and are presented to the reader as a voyeuristic collection of the epistolary connection between Griffin Moss, an artist (independent post card designer) in England, and Sabine Strohem, an artist (stamp illustrator) on a remote island in the South Pacific. It’s something like comfort food for my soul, given the way it touches on the profound connections available to people who are separated by a great deal of distance, and I have a great deal of respect for the way Nick Bantock, artist and author, pulls off the whole conceit.

And the artwork… is fantastic. The story opens with Sabine writing to Griffin asking him why he had abandoned a particular line of artistic work. Griffin responds with the kind of taken-aback formality of anyone unexpectedly confronted with more knowledge about themselves than they would anticipate from a stranger.

Thank you for your exotic postcard. Forgiveme if it’s a memory lapse on my part, but should I know you?

I can’t fathom out how you were aware of my first, broken cup, sketch for this card. I don’t remember showing it to anyone. Please enlighten me.

Bantock carries his epistolary series through three books: Griffin & Sabine, Sabine’s Notebook, and The Golden Mean. Rereading all three periodically only takes me a few short hours. But the kinesthetic experience of pulling out a page carefully inserted into an envelope pasted onto the page of the book, and illustrated with fantastical creatures that reflect the tone of the correspondence is an interesting meditation in its own right. And the increasingly emotional words, that culminate in one mystery after another, are compelling.

Not only that, but the intimate connection with characters whose very handwriting is immediately, visibly unique and the way the unfold themselves to each other in recognition of their growing connection to one another is uniquely impactful on the reader. Griffin’s blocky, all-cap printing contrasts vividly with Sabine’s penchant for an italicized semi-script reminiscent of calligraphy. We get to see where each letter-writer self-edits, and how they appreciate the artistry presented in the other’s work. In a digital age like ours, these small details create an almost subliminal timelessness.

Given the news in the world around us, and the frequency with which we read about how people are able to kill and maim without further thought, reading a subtle courtship carried out entirely through letters and art is a moving experience, and one I would unstintingly recommend to anyone interested in witnessing how a soul-deep connection is forged–entirely through words shared at a distance.

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