Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Review: Ralph Steadman's 'The Big I Am'

Having tackled some pretty infamous figures in his time (Leonardo De Vinci, Hunter S Thompson, Freud, Alice in Wonderland) in this 1988 publication Ralph Steadman tunes his ink to perhaps the most infamous figure of all...God. Steadman's take on the creation tale, and the subsequent mess both God and then we(*1) made of the world is in true Steadman style unforgiving and coarse. You always get the best of Steadman when you see his work on a decent scale (see The Curse of Lono his enormous collaboration about the Hawaain marathon with Hunter S Thompson) and this book doesn't disappoint, being bound in a big landscape hardcover book giving us plenty of room to take in Steadman's lush detail in. We are treated to the collection of the dead during plague time, the pomposity of the Pope's procession, and a neo-futuristic of flying contraptions and flying buildings.(*2) The inclusion of little snippets of the bare bones of Steadman's artistic style in the form of simpler line sketches and splashes of colour with anthropomorphic suggestions help to round off the package slightly. In terms of the narrative, we see the story of the creation through the eyes of a cumbersome and hapless God who created the world by accident and prefers the nothingness that came before. The most God has to say is about the absurdity of it all, he doesn't particularly like the attribution of religious explanations for almost everything (the discovery of fire and wheel for example) nor does he like shamans and con men giving their various interpretations on his word. He even pities the humans for their grovelling request to bury the dead they believe him to have killed with his plague. The language used is a metaphysical, at times over dramatic, rambling monologue that doesn't tend to grip me as much as the illustrations themselves*. But you'll have to take my word for it as the book is too big to fit under the scanner to show you the bits I'll like the most, but you can always search for it on Amazon or try and buy it second hand like I did.

(*1) In the name of God of course.
(*2) This double spread reminds me of the proto steampunk illustration of Albert Robida
(*3) From what I've read of it, his writing style in his book on Freud is much better and the book is generally pretty well informed (it filters Freud's ideas and life mainly through the use of jokes, a subject Freud himself would constantly return to).

No comments:

Post a Comment