‘I MAY NOT TAKE 14 YEARS OVER THE NEXT VISUAL BOOK'
Miles Fielder catches up with the eclectic AUDREY NIFFENEGGER for a swift
chinwag in an artists’ colony.
udrey Niffenegger is very pleased that her self-
styled ‘visual novel' The Three lneesrimus
Sisters is going to be read by a wide audience. Down the phone line from the Ragdale Foundation. an artists" colony outside of her Chicago hometown where she is spending the summer. she tells me: ‘I am so glad that the book is finally available to a wider readership via modern printing technology and the publishers. This is a book that is very dear to my heart.~
Niffenegger. a professor at the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts. where she teaches writing. letterpress printing and fine edition book production. spent 14 years making the book in question. Making. as opposed to writing and illustrating. because Niffenegger originally self- produced the publication in ten handmade editions. In the first year she came up with the words and rough pencilled images for the quasi-fantastical story about three siblings (the author has two of her own) who live by the sea and vie for the love of a lighthouse-keeper‘s son. In the following 13 years. she produced the finished artwork (using a complex. antique process involving zinc plates. etching and nitric acid called 'aquatint‘). designing the book. setting the type and finally binding the leather. The originals tnust be extraordinary to behold. Good luck laying your hands on one of these collectables.
Unsurprisingly. Niffenegger prioritises making books over telling stories. ‘I make books [she has produced other visual novels] because I love them as these perfect artef‘acts. and because I want to combine text and pictures in order to tell a story.‘ Certainly. she does both (her artistic and literary inspirations include Aubrey Beardsley and Winsor McCay. Henry James
28 THE LIST (3 ~20 Oct 200:3
and Edgar Allan Poe). but more titan 90% of The Three Incestuous .S'r'srers‘ l-i-year production time was spent making the book.
During that time Niffenegger completed her graduate education. set up a print shop with a friend. mounted a series of exhibitions and began teaching. She also started writing a novel. The Time Traveller's ll’ife. That book is the antithesis of The Three lneesrrmus .S'isrers. For a start. Niffenegger had nothing to do with designing. printing and binding it. Second. it became a bestseller. translated in 26 languages around the world and delivered to bookshops on a print run significantly larger than ten. She laughs at the mention of the disparity between the two books. 'l never expected The Time Traveller’s Wife to become a bestseller. I started writing it before I had finished The Sisters. kind of fiitting from one to the other with no thought about what kind of life each would have.~
Given the fact that she‘s produced both a bestselling paperback and a collectable coffee table-sized art book. what's next‘.’ 'l‘m working on a couple of things.‘ she says rather vaguely. ‘At Ragdale‘." l inquire. ‘Yeah.’ she says. adding: ‘We're not really supposed to use the phone here. Just in emergencies.‘ Time‘s almost tip. then. and unlike Niffenegger‘s titular heroine l have no control over it. so I press her. ‘l‘m working on another visual book although 1 may not take l4 years over this one. I'm also working on another novel. a Victorian novel set in north London. titled Her Tear/ill .S'yinmerijv.‘
And with that this sister hangs up.
The Three Incestuous Sisters is out now published by Jonathan Cape.
THE BEST BOOKS, COMICS & EVENTS
tit Brett Easton Ellls Your one and only chance to see the man behind the imagination that created American Pyscho, a true tale of 808 nihilism if ever 1 there was one. His new novel, ’ Lunar Park, is as gory a tale as
you would expect from Easton
Ellis but with afar more
personal bent. Oran Mor,
Glasgow, Wed 72 Oct.
* Vlkram Seth The literary
wizard who wrote the epic love
story A Suitable Boy and even managed to create an entire
novel in rhyming verse (The
Golden Gate) turns his attention
to Hitler’s Germany and post-
war Britain as the setting for this tangled relationship tale. See
review, page 29. Little, Brown.
* Mlchaol Kupperman
Smart but not too serious comic book fun in Kupperman's Tales Designed to Dina/e. There's something in here for everyone , - whether you‘re young. old or i meandering somewhere around middle age. The ﬁrst issue leaves no stone unturned, be it Flash Gordon, public lnfonnation ﬁlms or 503 pulp ﬁction. See review, page 29. Fantagraphics.
* JAM'M This one reads like a who’s who of the Glasgow literary scene, including that genius of pensionable age Alasdair Gray, cult author Louise Welsh and feisty comedienne Janey Godley. And not only will you get to hear from these ﬁne literary voices, but your entry fee helps fund the legal case against the M74 extension. That’s true political ﬁction. Woodside Hal/s, Glasgow, Sat 15 Oct.
* Fresh Talent If there‘s a budding author nestling inside you somewhere, he’s your chance to hear from those who have made it from pipe dream to published word. Zoe Strachan, whose debut novel Negative Space was shortlisted for the Scottish First Book of
the Year Award, is joined by Will Napier, Ewan Morrison, Allan Guthrie and more. Otttakar's, Edinburgh, Tue 16 Oct.