Here, by Richard McGuire
The room you’re currently standing/sitting/lying down/somersaulting in has been something else before. It might have been a part of a much larger room with no partitioning wall. It might have had a different purpose—say, sitting rather than bedding—or it might not have been there at all. Fly back year after year after year, leap across dozens, hurtle through hundreds and thousands and millions—the very space that you currently occupy might have been home to a mansion, a sprawling field, a murky swamp, dense forest, or perhaps the continents were yet to shift and it was actually in another location entirely. But stop and concentrate on that single room, here, now. What is in it, and how does that relate to what came before, and what will come in the future?
Such is the premise of Richard McGuire’s ground-breaking graphic novel Here. Set in a single room, each page offers a glimpse into a scene from its past and future. Every scene is dated with the year, but no single date is highlighted as the present, meaning the reader can come and go as he or she pleases, leaping into a future when students are given a tour of the space and shown holographic representations of what would typically be in a person’s pocket in that decade, or falling into a distant past when two Native Americans shared stories and romance. Such is the reckless motion of Here. Such is the freedom from time in this single space.
No single story dominates Here. The reader is given flashes that only continue for a few pages. Just when a house is engulfed in flames and an elderly man falls from his chair, the reader is snatched and thrown else-when, to gaze upon family photos set in the room across generations. When the old man returns, it’s only briefly. The house-in-flames, meanwhile, is re-built, or is it the same house but before it was built? The passages of time and people are dizzying in the extreme—it’s just not possible to gain a foothold. Too much flies past as the pages go on. It’s absolutely wonderful.
Equally magnificent are the repetitions and differences in actions and speech. How one family poses for a family photo while another family in another decade does too. How an arrow flies across multiple pages and the reader can’t help but see it travel across the space of the room, even though the room hasn’t been built yet. How the lands before and after time are eerily empty despite millions of years passing between frames. And how the placing of a handful of scenes throughout the graphic novel, perhaps featuring nothing but a solitary figure poised at the window in darkness, grip as they do despair.
Here is a photo album that transcends time, respects space and makes a mockery of both all at once. It’s beautifully drawn, wonderfully realised and a must-have for any book collection. McGuire’s a genius.