It isn’t often that you fall in love, head over heels in love, hook, line and sinker in love, with a book. That is what has happened here today, though. Richard McGuire’s Here is the kind of book you can only admire. You would have to be quite stubborn, or – let’s be honest – wrongheaded, to attempt to criticise. This is genius. We can all agree. Lay down your critical brickbats, open your arms, accept. Even admitting that Here is a colossal work of genius is reductive though. This is a book that thrills with warmth. Genius is too cold a word to describe what we have here. What we have here is life, what we have here is beautiful genius that pulses to the touch. I say all of this knowing that there will be those amongst you whose default is cynicism, who don’t just accept what they’re told, who need demonstration, examples, proofs. That’s why we’re here.
What we have here (in Here) are about two hundred or more views of the same room, a living room, viewed from the same vantage point but at different points in time. So, for example, we see the room in 1957, with a small playpen in amongst the couches and easy chairs. We see the room in 1942, stripped almost bare, in the midst of decoration. We see the room in 2007, bare again, except for a fold out bed. Then it gets a little more complicated. We see the 1957 room again (without the playpen, a woman viewed from behind, perhaps she’s a mother to be), with a small 1999 inset of a cat – we see where the cat would be in the 1957 room, and start to think: ah, this is a room in which a woman and a cat have both existed. We travel back to 1623, when the room doesn’t exist, when there are watercolour trees on this spot – although we retain insets, of the woman in 1957, of the cat in 1999. We see the room in 1955, with four elderly people from 1989 inset on the couch; the 1999 is exiting the picture. You know how cats are. We travel to 8,000 BCE, although we keep the oldies on the 1989 couch (they’re about to experience some drama). We travel to 1,009 BCE. 1573. 1763. We are all over the place. This is how the resident’s of Vonnegut’s Tralfalmadore view the world presumably, all possible lives co-existant.
At first, you think ‘I will try and maintain each of these possible lives, follow each of these possible stories’ but you quickly realise (a) it isn’t possible and (b) you probably don’t want to be so uptight. Here is a book you give yourself up to. And what is possibly surprising is that, in the midst of all of this life, you start to become attached to the space. This reader gasped (I kid you not) at house fires and floods. There are both broad and narrow arcs. We see deer, dinosaurs and wolves traversing this space. Arrows. Ears up close to the vantage eye. We see parties and dancing, cherry picked from throughout a century. We see the path of a bird across a few startled moments. We see the ancient past and the far flung future, both periods in which water has reclaimed what a few people have managed to keep at bay for a narrow period of time. We see the construction of this house. We see a future in which guided tours are held, people imagining what once stood on the ground we’ve been examining so intently. There are families. Strangers, momentarily, pass through. There is class war. Picnics. Deathbed scenes. Gallows humour. Charades. Rape. Hipsters. Future games involving squares that hang in the air. Elderly married couples explain the secret of their long marriages. People clean. Play games of musical chairs. Dance. Decorate. There is birth, play, death, joy, love. Gymnastics. Twister.
It’s a tremendous imaginative feat, a deeply immersive reading experience (even though there are few words to actually read). It feels like the kind of book you will read and re-read and re-read and re-read, gaining some new insight, replenishing some fresh pleasure, each time you dive in. All of life is here. This is a book too good to review almost because no review could do justice to just how good this book is.
Any Cop?: If you are a fan of graphic works, this is an essential purchase. If you are not, if you have yet to pick up the book that made the difference to you, this is it. We can’t recommend this enough.