Review: Dotter Of Her Father's Eyes by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot
Trying to join lines between one Bryan Talbot project and the next is nigh impossible. Heart Of Empire, Alice In Sunderland, Grandville, each occupies very different worlds, styles, genres, approaches to the form. And now it's time for him to do it again, this time working with his wife, Mary Talbot, in creating Dotter Of Her Father's Eyes, both a biography and an autobiography, taking two lives, that of Mary Talbot as the daughter of a major Joycean scholar, and Lucia Joyce, James Joyce's daughter, and the parallels between.
It hits home rather, as the father of two young daughters, moreover a father who stays at home writing and looking after his children. And the affect the father can have on the child, the love, the anger, and the complexes that can emerge from both, affecting the child into their life. I found this book both moving and giving me pause to reflect upon my own life. Even now as I write this, my daughters are waiting to go to Richmond Park to feed the ducks - to what extent does their waiting longer than they expected afect their enjoyment, their presence of mind now, or cumulatively, their life experience as a whole? What will they remember, what will they carry foward with them? Dotter draws lines from then to now, of influence, of parallel, of reflection, for childhood into their lives as adults, their fathers shaping their lives in some form or other, either by presence or absence.
I think Msry comes out of it better though.
It is slightly reminiscent of Maus, the story of a man's past and that of the author, as his son, but this book weighs further in favour of the author in terms of content.The point of view expressed in the book is extraordinary, the bon mots, the bon moments, the specific times that stick out in the author's memory, all else is discarded. It feels a very selfish voice, one around which the whole world turns. Rather Joycean in fact.Just as Mary's father quotes and models his own speech patterns on Joyce as and when he can, also inspiring the title of the book, so the narrative jumps, twists and turns in unconventional fashions, mirroring the desire to innovate of Joyce - and the interpretation of such by those who studied him.
As you can see, Bryan Talbot has pulled back on his stained glass window effect of late - solid black lines defining characters, to be filled in with glorious colour. His work here is far sketchier, though just as controlled, and colour is sparsely used. The past is a foreign country after all, and often in black/blue/sepia and white.
Separating the narrative in typed form from the rest of the comic, also gives this book a scholarly feel, a sense of detachment for both lives, so that they can be studied and analysed, even by someone who lived through one of them herself. The book does more though, it not only educates but it inspires. It's given me pause to self reflect. And it's led to a rather shorter piece than I was intending to write. Off to the park, girls, I'll go get the bikes.
Dotter Of Her Father's Eyes is published by Jonathan Cape in February.