The Newer York is an online-and-print magazine that plants itself firmly in the tradition of the avant-garde, publishing left-field short stories accompanied by artwork and grandly declaring on its website, “We will end the triumvirate of novels, poems and short-stories.” It sells a range of merchandise, including paintings, mugs, t-shirts and books, one of which is a remarkable little volume written and illustrated by Bob Schofield called The Inevitable June.
In his book, Schofield strips the lexicon of narrative and illustration to their essentials. Each page is its own world. We start with a small square, which becomes a big square, then a box, then a frame around the book’s title. Over the page, the date “June 1” suggests the start of the story, and a first-person narrative begins:
This morning I am swollen in my mother’s belly. It creaks like a door in the lamp post. I imagine a coat rack built in an iceberg. There are clouds above it. A black octopus touching people’s hair.
The story is neither rational nor linear. Its mercurial instability recalls Benjamin Péret; Schofield, like the great surrealist, lets words and images wander down whatever pathways of association they like. It makes for a delightful read, in which the reader is constantly being surprised, yet is struck by the unaccountable rightness of the story’s shifts and changes. Every chapter is a day in June, beginning with the same two words: “This morning.” We experience a perpetual morning, in which everything is always new. Constant novelty could get boring very quickly, but Schofield presents us with threads, themes, motifs, running from chapter to chapter: the box, glass aeroplanes, baking, the sea, masks, identity, family.
Delight and surprise were not the only emotions I felt when reading The Inevitable June. The book is unsettling and thought-provoking. I am not sure why. One reason might be Schofield’s use of the first person; I felt as if I was reading an encrypted autobiography, a poetic transformation of lived experiences, similar in tone to Fernando Arrabal’s La Pierre de la Folie Take, for example, this passage from Arrabal’s livre panique:
Imprisoned in the glass bottle, all I could see were my mother’s huge hands, slamming the lid shut.
And now this, from The Inevitable June:
This morning I am thinking about my father, who jumped from a glass airplane at the precise moment I was born.
Like La Pierre de la Folie, the narrative of The Inevitable June is organised into brief episodes and proceeds by the accumulation of heterogeneous details, rather than by providing a logically coherent story. I would argue that, in this respect, both books resemble life as we actually experience it far more closely than most novels.
But I digress. The other source of The Inevitable June‘s power lies in its combination of stylish monochrome design and simple drawings. The pictures make their own story, one that runs parallel with Schofield’s word world, intersecting at times, diverging at others, reflecting, distorting, parodying. The book would be greatly diminished without them. Unfortunately, if you buy the Kindle version and read it on your iPad or iPhone, many of the pictures don’t display properly. In any case, there’s never a substitute for a physical book, and this one is a pleasure to handle.
There is a lot more I could write about Schofield’s book: the array of cultural allusions (such as Mary Poppins – check out June 24), the humour, the terrifying octopus. But I’ll wrap up this review by saying simply that I love The Inevitable June, and if you enjoyed silly stories as a toddler and haven’t entirely forgotten what it was like to be one, you will too.
You can buy the book here.