Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bantock's Griffin & Sabine

Griffin & Sabine: an extraordinary correspondence / Nick Bantock
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, c1991.
48 p.

I think most people are pretty aware of this book, which spent over two years on the bestsellers lists when it was first published, and spawned all sorts of accompanying merchandise -- notecards, stationery, postcards and so on.

But I hadn't read it in years, so I picked it up again, and utterly enjoyed it. I had forgotten most of the story, and so got to explore and uncover clues once more. But the true joy in reading this is the format.

Bantock is an artist and a writer, born in the UK but living in Vancouver. This book brought the concept of collage and mail art to a wider audience. I love the fact that the story is told through postcards, and envelopes from which to pull out separate letters. I love that some of the messages are typed, and some are written in a fine brown fountain pen. Holding Sabine's letter above the actual book, and reading "her" handwriting and seeing her artwork sketched out, made me want to turn immediately to my correspondence pile and write some more letters!

It's also mysterious -- Griffin begins to receive an unexpected correspondence from Sabine, a women heretofore unknown to him. She lives on a distant island, and seems to know far too much about his artwork, more than he has told anyone. She sends him decorated mail, seeing as how she has the fabulous job of designing the stamps for her island republic.

But she also claims that they have a psychic connection. What is this all about? Well, Bantock leaves us with a cliffhanger ending, so of course we must read on, discovering book two and three of this trilogy to get the facts. I'll be reading those shortly, and sharing more on what I find...

I love the size and the glossiness and the colour of each page in this book. It's really artwork in book form, and for anyone fond of letter writing and all the ephemera of mail art (who could that be?) it's a very satisfying read. It's short, but mysterious mail is compelling on its own, and when such intriguing art is a part of it, I can't help myself, I love it.


  1. This is one of my favorites!! I love Bantock's art, and the story is so interesting and unpredictable. Have you read any of his other books? I really enjoyed The Venetian's Wife...even though it wasn't written in letters & postcards. :)

    1. I have the next 2 in the G&S series to read, and then The Venetian's Wife! I love his style and the images are just so great to pore over and examine.

  2. Oooh, I re-read this for my mini "Fridays are for Letters" fugue last year and I was shocked to find that I loved it every bit as much. I was afraid some of the shine would have rubbed off, but no, just as lovely. And for you too!

    1. Yes, I still loved the tactile nature of it, actually pulling letters out of envelopes, the handwriting, etc. So lovely!


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