A quick little post this one to take a look at the latest book from Julian Hanshaw whose The Art of Pho came out about 18 months ago after he had first won the Observer/Cape Graphic Short Story Prize in 2008. I loved the artwork of that book even if I wasn't satisfied by the narrative and so I was intrigued when his latest popped through the door. I'm Never Coming Back functions like a collection of short stories but, as he mentions in this Director's Commentary on the piece, these are 'stories brushing against each other', linked like the various parts of Robert Altman's Short Cuts. Hanshaw again works with themes of 'loss, food and travel' taking the reader from the 'sound mirrors' on the coast of Denge, as featured in his award winning short (which can be viewed here), to the desert town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, via Berlin, Christchurch, Tucson and Heathrow. Again, we are not going to be satisfied by any grand narrative here, these are vignettes, some of which will give more joy than others, but the artwork is again beautiful throughout and the book as a whole has a pleasingly surreal tone.
It's tempting to suggest that the inclusion of Sand Dunes and Sonic Booms, the two-page piece that won Hanshaw his award, only highlights the strength of that short piece in comparison to some of the others on display here. But that might be a little unfair. Another sequence on the coast of Winchelsea provides one of the book's highlights as we follow a chap called Martin as he starts a new job in the kitchen of a beach cafe whilst trying to maintain a long-distance relationship through postcards. It is a local character in the shape of a man who sits everyday on the beach in a deep-sea diver's helmet who provides the enigmatic focal point of this story of communication, loneliness, tentative friendship and change.
There is also something satisfying about the story that takes place in Truth or Consequences which melds dreams and distance with tasty food and human connection. What is also interesting are the different colour palettes in each separate location. As I said, Hanshaw's work is consistently a visual treat; when he combines that with a strong narrative then his work will be irresistible.