Monday, July 13, 2009

George Sprott, 1894-1975

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded. This time, a review of George Sprott, 1894-1975 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2009)

This book is completely wonderful. It's on the shortlist of the year's best, so far.

I've been a big fan of Seth's work for quite some time, despite owning so little of it. I adored his wonderful Wimbledon Green from a few years ago, and I love his designs for the Peanuts and John Stanley Library series. He puts together gorgeous books, and his cartooning chops are awe-inspiring. One day, I might start drawing again, and just wish I could capture character, time and place half as well as Seth does.

Well, what you get in this gigantic book - it's only 96 pages, but it'll task your ability to find shelf space for it - are fractured memories and discussions about the life of George Sprott, the host for many years of a weekly television program called Northern Hi-Lights. Sprott had made a name for himself in the 1930s with a series of expeditions to the Arctic Circle, and parlayed this into some degree of celebrity in a small city in Ontario. Station CKCK was one of those long-lost television channels which was devoted to regular, regional programming. Both the channel and its home city, with its "Radio Hotel" and lecture hall, have been lost, swept away in the homogenization of modern culture. This is partially a narration (it's not quite a biography) of a man, but more a window into a world that was decaying by the time of Sprott's death in 1975, and doesn't exist at all anymore.

I don't know whether that description's enough to sell anybody on how magical this book is, but I was really moved by it. I'm just amazed by Seth's ability to completely sell this immersive worldview, where you're not sure whether the "then-popular fad for self-improvement" was part of our own history, or Sprott's. I knew I was going to like this book, but I really had no idea just how much.

(Seth was interviewed Friday over at Omnivoracious.)

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