We reviewed Goldsmith’s debut, Vignettes of Ystov, a wee while ago and made mention, at the close of the review, that we were very much looking forward to whatever Goldsmith turned his hand to next. It turns out that what Goldsmith has turned his hand to is this, The Bind, a book about a bookbinders business – and we’re not all that fond, if truth be told.
First things first: the book looks beautiful. It’s one of those slightly oversized hardback graphic novels with lovely endpapers recalling the work of both Bryan Talbot and Seth. Good company I think we can all agree. As with Vignettes of Ystov, Goldsmith’s work is all very watercolour-y and distinct – he certainly has a look and feel that is all his own (look and feel being the equivalent of an artist’s voice in the graphic novel world).
The tale is set between 1912-1918, and concerns a bookbinders known as Egret Bindings. We are met by a ghostly cloud (I know, right?) who turns out to be the late father of the two men who currently own the business, and he takes us on a tour and laments some of the current working practices and introduces us to the main employees and then we are left to the story itself, which in the main revolves around a collection of poetry called A Moonless Land, by E Skirmish, that the business has decided will have the most expensive binding ever. One of the brothers decides to dupe the person who wants to buy the most expensively binded book; and then the other brother learns of the duping and decides to go one dupe further. There is a tragedy. A fire. And so it goes, as Mr Vonnegut might once have said.
So what’s the matter with it? Well, some of the art is a bit wishy-washy for a start. The cloud with a face, for example. In fact, the cloud as a device to introduce us to proceedings. It doesn’t really work. And the way in which it comes and it goes seems to indicate that it’s there as a bridging device and – well, this reader didn’t entirely buy it. There are other devices in the book too, like an elaborate and costly fold-out that could just as easily have been delivered over four pages (I’m not sure what the fold out adds). The point comes when you start to ask yourself – why this subject and not another? It all seems a bit random, a bit undercooked and a bit indulged. That isn’t to say that there are not parts of the book that work, and work well – the two sections that tell us each brother’s version of events, for example, are by far the best thing here. But you have to wade through a fair bit of needless silliness to get there. Which may make me sound like the Colonel from Monty Python, but there you go.
Any Cop?: A little disappointing after Vignettes of Ystov if we’re being brutally honest. Or possibly just not for us.