I can’t remember when I first encountered Marian Churchland‘s work — I think a friend maybe linked me to her posts about The Crossing, an unimplemented MMORPG idea she sketched out (quite literally) in a series of posts on her blog? Her writing and drawing and sartorial sense appealed to me, so I started following her, and when I found out, months later, that she had written a graphic novel, I knew I wanted to read it. (Artists, bad at self-promotion what?)
Beast is a retelling of the “Beauty and the Beast” story, of course, but our Beauty is a cranky down-on-her-luck sculptor and our Beast is an enigmatic centuries-old man who seems to be made out of swirling shadows. It’s also about the relationship between artist and patron, artist and muse, and the question of what the artist will sacrifice for her art.
The story is gorgeously told — all fluid linework in her distinctive understated style, and the book uses the color of that linework to indicate time of day in a way that I found effective and subtle. (If I ever finish… but I get ahead of myself.)
I identified a lot with the main character’s habits, which the author depicts with loving (and I presume somewhat autobiographical) care — boiling water in a kettle on the stove, leaving cups of tea to cool in odd places and forgetting them, working mostly at night, making and needing few connections with other people. An ascetic, obsessive lifestyle; one that I fall into sometimes when I don’t have other things to pull me out. One that I miss, sometimes.
I loved how the story grounded its fantastic in the mundane, how it neither questioned the fantasy nor bothered to explain it. It didn’t need to. Each heightened the effect of the other.
It’s a book I want to come back to in a week, a month, a year, to see how it changes, the more I write. To see if it grows on me.