Sunday, August 16, 2009

Reif Larsen

by Reif Larsen

*I would love to say that I understand the website that goes along with this book, but unfortunately I am completely lost. Check out the site for yourself and good luck.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet: The Lost Images
by Reif Larsen
I initially wrote a draft of The Selected Works without any accompanying illustrations. After reaching the end, I still had that tingly feeling that usually means something is missing, and so I thought about it for awhile and realized that in order to really understand T.S., we actually need to see his drawings laid out on the page. T.S. was most comfortable in the exploding diagram or the annotation or the bitchin’ bar graph; this marginal material was where he would often let down his guard and reveal something he wouldn’t otherwise in the main text.

As soon as you include that first image in the margin, however, you've positioned yourself on a slippery slope, as suddenly there's this temptation to illustrate every single detail in the novel. Particularly with a digressive character like T.S., I found that I had to be very selective about what I wanted to show. What is not shown is as important as what is shown. In addition, many of the images in this book are not direct illustrations like might you see in other books—as in, "let me tell you about x and now here is a picture of x." Instead of a direct one-to-one correspondence, there's a satellite-like relationship between the text and the image, a kind of graphical parallelism. T.S. will talk about his suspicion of the adult male and then include a chart of male-pattern baldness, and it is through these somewhat disparate leaps between text and image, between the main story and the marginalia, that we begin to soak in T.S.'s habits of mind.

Sometimes I would include an image and then realize that I could now erase a piece of text, as the image was performing the work of that text, and often performing it in subtler ways. On page 67, for instance, there's a diagram of the patterns of cross–talk at the dinner table. Before this image came along, I had a whole elaborate explanation of T.S.'s difficulties talking to his Father at the head of the table, but this became redundant with the diagram; the visual shows it much more elegantly.

And then there were cases where I put in an image only to figure out after awhile that it just wasn't working. In honor of T.S.'s tendency to categorize everything, I've chosen five of these "lost images," each representative of a different reason for ending up on the cutting-room floor.
(taken from