Thursday, 5 March 2015

Roman Muradov's tintinnabulating story of innocence lost

Full title: (In a Sense) Lost & Found
Author: Roman Muradov
Genre: Fiction, Graphic Novella
Attributes: 56 pages, paperback
Publisher: Nobrow Press (2014)
Between 0 and 1Zero (i.e. borrowed from local library)

Keyword: innocence. Not an abstract thing, not a concept, but something one might be inclined to call physical, or even better: palpable. So palpable, it’s like an object you can place and misplace. And when misplacing happens you must know you’re in trouble. As is the case with the heroine of this graphic novella, who finds out, one morning, that she has, oh God, lost her – lost her innocence.
The event of the loss is so terrible and so unexpected, it sets off a whole chain of other events, none of which is ever going to ask the essential question: How was it even possible?
Lost just like that, out of the blue, innocence becomes unpronounceable. In a sense, perhaps, but that’s just an attempt. The fuzzy characters who, for want of a good word, make reference to it, find only uncertain words to describe the object, only approximations. And so it becomes "the thingy," "the you-know-what," or it's simply expressed by means of an evasive ellipsis, the three full-stops of imprecise punctuation.
The victim, F. Premise, the young girl who's lost the non-entity formerly known as Innocence, is bound to set out on a journey of discovery. She’ll have to see where her innocence ended up, but she’s up for some surprises. To start with, she’s perhaps the only one baffled by the others' bafflement, since the loss is not as devastating to her as it seems to be to others. She says, in a tone of perfect naiveté:
"I certainly don't remember losing it, and I can't say I felt any different."
And that might be, to a certain extent, a reaction to the whole shebang put up by the father, "a man of harsh words and raw onions," who, as a result of this unpardonable loss, has grounded the girl, sent her back to her room, forced her not to leave the Premises. Typical of fathers, one might say.
But, young that she is, freshly innocence-less, F. (if that's her name) has no intention to obey the fatherly custody. She absconds by way of a surreptitious back window plus the convenient fire escape of their slightly aristocratic house, a building (or should I call it simply space?) shrouded in mystery and real, thick, expressive and obliterating shadows.
Escaped she is but not yet so, because the world, where you are nothing without your innocence (being a girl and all), takes no time to show F. the even darker side of things. Lost in a crowded bus where everyone seems able, with a peculiar exactitude, to see that she's without "the thingy," F. ends up on a couch. A couch in a bookstore. And there, in the grace of a benevolent bookseller who turns out to be a good-willing hoarder who hangs his teabags to dry on a clothes line, F. appears to find a way of being who she is without the ‘benefit’ of an intact "you-know-what." Henceforth, more events – but this would require some spoilers, and that wouldn't be nice of the undersigned.

Roman Muradov. Source: The Shed
But there are other things to say. For instance, that it's quite cute to see Muradov’s way with words. In this little graphic charm of his where he plays the role of a witty language-twister, and where the story in the drawings unfolds in monochromatic tones of scarlets and oranges and deep blacks, even the intercom system has its manner of clicking: it once says "kliek," and then says "cleek," as if the desire to engage in wordplay has affected even objects. Not to mention that a match, when struck to light a pipe, says – could it be by accident? – well, "click." And not to mention (again!) some men, like the father, for instance, whose speech lines are marked by peculiarities of orthography. Nota bene: orthography, and not diction. As when he calls his favorite vegetables “anyons,” or when he admonishes his daughter: “If someone seizure walking down the street like this…” (where the “seizure” is, obviously,  to be read as “sees you”).
It's clear, I hope, that this is meant to be a world on/of paper. There is, indeed, a ‘papery’ distinction to be noted in the way words take up their own shapes, as above. It's why, I guess, the many anonymous urbanites met along the way (i.e. the people in the street, who remain unknown no matter what) communicate with each other in speech bubbles filled with nonsense: nonsense that's really strings of recognizable scribbles, like real words, yet words that remain scribbles; they mean nothing at all.
But paper is important in many other senses. Here’s one: the story unfolds in an environment where a lot of note-writing, newspaper-reading, book-selling, memoir-composing and world-making take place. Not to give anything away, but this is a story where the protagonist herself ends up writing her own story in a cyclical way, taking the reader back where it had all begun:
"F. Premise awoke one morning from troubled dreams to find that her innocence had gone missing."
Add to this the pages upon pages of images without words, where you find yourself caught up in an intense game of clue-searching, scanning the drawings with an eye of someone who's awoken to the reality of a different, visually-enticing literacy: the literacy of cartoon readers. Add this to the mix, and it becomes easier to see how this world of innocence lost and found is a world of paper and pen.  In a sense…