Saturday, October 11, 2014

Dotter of her Fathers Eyes

Written by Mary M. Talbot
Art by Bryan Talbot

I've never had a lot of interest in the writing of James Joyce, and have only ever read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man back when I was in university, but I am always interested in seeing how comics can intersect with the academic world, and I have long been a fan of Bryan Talbot's work.

Dotter of Her Father's Eyes is written by Talbot's wife, Mary.  She is the daughter of James S. Atherton, a renowned Joyce scholar, and, apparently, a difficult man to get along with.  Growing up, Atherton was a complicated presence in Mary's life.  In some ways, she longed to please him, but in others, she found his intransigence painful.  So, in other words, she was a typical daughter to a typical father, especially considering we are talking about post-War Britain.

To prove the commonality of her story, it is told in parallel to that of Lucia Joyce, the daughter of James Joyce, who was subject to her family's nomadic and penniless ways, and who was forced to put a successful dancing and teaching career on hold because of familial obligations.  The two women's stories unfold in such a way as to look for lines of intersection, but the telling difference is that where Mary ended up marrying Bryan and becoming a successful academic, Lucia ended up in a string of asylums.

This is a very personal work, made even more so by the fact that the artist is married to the writer.  There are a couple of places where Mary includes small notes to disagree with the way Bryan has pictured events, and these add to the sense of accuracy that this book carries.  Mary shows a strong sense of self-awareness, and Bryan keeps his art clear and more minimal, avoiding the lush work we are used to seeing from him in his Grandville graphic novels.

This book was well worth reading, and provided some insight into the lives of the brilliant.

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