BANTOCK, Nick




Author Tags: Art, Essentials 2010, Fiction

It’s not quite Game of Thrones. But the success of Nick Bantock’s ‘cult’ series of art books known as Griffin & Sabine, featuring illustrated postcards and removable letters, has no equal in B.C. literature.

Bantock’s first three titles in 1991, 1992 and 1993 spent 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It took Bantock twenty-five years to reveal the fate of the two estranged lovers, who are both artists, with The Pharos Gate: Griffin and Sabine’s Lost Correspondence (Chronicle / Raincoast $34.95). In this final volume, Griffin Moss vows to finally meet Sabine Strohem. It was released in tandem with a 25th anniversary edition of the first volume.

Nick Bantock’s first unconventional art-novel Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence (1991) received praise and popularity near and far for providing letters and postcards between lovers separated by continents. Griffin Moss is a lonely artist in London who receives mail from a mysterious woman named Sabine Strohem, living on an island in the South Pacific. Each page of the book contains a postcard or a letter, including an envelope. The reader removes each different message. Some are handwritten and some are typed, complete with spelling mistakes.

Initiated by San Francisco’s Chronicle Books, Griffin & Sabine was followed by Sabine’s Notebook, which received the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award in 1993. Subsequent titles in a similar vein have included The Golden Mean: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Concludes.

Bantock introduced a different couple--with less success--with The Gryphon, followed by Alexandria. Bantock reportedly completed his labyrinthine series of “visual literature” with the final volume of his second trilogy, The Morning Star, in 2003. But he proved himself wrong by producing a seventh volume in 2016.

The Griffin & Sabine series was also revived by Bantock for a romantic drama at the Arts Club Theatre in 2006.

The phenomenal success of British-trained designer Bantock’s series of “pop-up books for adults” began quite by accident. According to Bantock, the rough manuscript for his Griffin & Sabine was discovered only after an American editor happened to notice some of Bantock’s personal doodlings. Bantock had gone to California to pitch conventional projects.

“It was at the bottom of my clothes bag,” he says. “I was only taking it along to show to a friend. As I threw the other dummies back on top, my red socks parted to reveal the dummy of Griffin & Sabine.

The editor reached over and said, ‘What’s that?’” The curious American editor, Victoria Rock, took it to her senior editor at Chronicle Books. It was published in Canada by Raincoast Books, who would hit the jackpot a second time by serving as the Canadian publisher for the Harry Potter series.

In the wake of his commercial success with the Griffin & Sabine books, original in both shape and design, Nick Bantock has been a pioneer in the emerging field of found art within books, along with Vancouver designer and author Barbara Hodgson, who co-founded Byzantium Books with Bantock. In much the same way that sampling in the music industry has become legitimate for recording artists, or poets publish “found poems,” technology has enabled the easy “borrowing” of imagery for rejuvenated art by graphic designers.

A former resident of Bowen Island, Nick Bantock is a British-raised graphic designer and artist. "I have the habit of creating books that are none too easy to describe," he says.

When Griffin & Sabine premiered at the Arts Club Theatre in October of 2006, Bantock also released Windflower (Chronicle $29.95), a fanciful, faux Italian tale of a strikingly beautiful caravan dancer, Ana, who flees an unwanted wedding. The action occurs in a timeless, fairy-tale zone with place names such as Capolan and Serona. Minus Bantock’s trademark array of assembled images, but illustrated with a variegated colour frieze at the bottom of each page, the text was co-credited to Sophia Loren’s son, Edoardo Ponti, who was reportedly writing a screenplay adaptation of the work.

Bantock has also produced an interpretation of Solomon Grundy; The Egyptian Jukebox, a complex puzzle book; The Forgetting Room and numerous other titles such as his 'visual autobiography' The Artful Dodger. He has also provided a 'handbook' to composition techniques as a visual artist entitled Urgent 2nd Class: Creating Curious Collage, Dubious Documents, and Other Art from Ephemera (Raincoast 2004) in conjunction with an art exhibition in West Vancouver, where he was living. "Urgent 2nd Class," he says, "pays homage to the gentle art of embellishing the foxed and creased leftovers of bygone eras."

BOOKS:

Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence (1991 / 2016 978-1-4521-5595-1 $32.95)

Sabine’s Notebook (1992)

The Golden Mean: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Concludes

The Gryphon (which introduces the reader to a new couple)

Alexandria

The Morning Star (2003)

Urgent 2nd Class: Creating Curious Collage, Dubious Documents, and Other Art from Ephemera (Raincoast 2004)

Windflower (Chronicle 2006). With Edoardo Ponti

Solomon Grundy

The Egyptian Jukebox (a complex puzzle book)

The Forgetting Room

The Artful Dodger (a 'visual autobiography')

The Pharos Gate: Griffin and Sabine’s Lost Correspondence (Chronicle / Raincoast $34.95) 978-1-4521-5125-0

[BCBW 2016]

The Forgetting Room (HarperCollins $29.95)
Info



Armon Hurt is a lonely man who feels disconnected from the rest of the world. When his once beloved grandfather dies and leaves him a home in Spain, Armon travels there to sort out his grandfather's affairs. But the old man has left his grandson a package, a final communication with an unusual puzzle, that Armon feels compelled to solve. In Nick Bantock's The Forgetting Room (HarperCollins $29.95), Armon realizes that solving the puzzle will help him banish some of his personal demons and discover his own place in the world.
0 990096 X

[BCBW 1997]


Griffin & Sabine
Info



THE PHENOMENAL SUCCESS OF NICK Bantock's Griffin & Sabine and Sabine's Notebook began quite by accident. According to Bantock, the rough manuscript for Griffin & Sabine was discovered only after an American editor happened to notice some of Bantock's personal doodlings. The illustrator had gone to California to pitch conventional projects. "It was at the bottom of my clothes bag," he says, "I was only taking it along to show to a friend. As I threw the other dummies back on top, my red socks parted to reveal the dummy of Griffin & Sabine. "The editor reached over and said, 'What's that?'" Bantock gives full credit to that curious American editor, Victoria Rock, for taking Griffin & Sabine to her senior editor at Chronicle Books, Annie Barrows, who then "basically made it happen."

[BCBW, Summer, 1993]


Griffin and Sabine
Article



A WORK OF ART. VISUAL LITERATURE. Literary performance art. However you define it, Nick Bantock's new book Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence (Chronicle/Raincoast $19.95) is completely original. Designed as a pop-up book for adults, it doubles as a haunting story about a lonely artist living in London who receives letters and post cards from a mysterious woman, Sabine, living on an island in the South Pacific. Somehow she knows his art as well as he does, although they have never met. Bantock, who has created several bestselling pop-up books for children, has adapted his expertise for Griffin and Sabine. Each page contains a post card, or a letter complete with envelope. You remove the letter from the envelope some are 'handwritten' and some typed complete with spelling mistakes and read it. Bantock lives on Bowen Island, off Vancouver, where the residents pick up their mail at the post office. "Everyone knows everyone on the island so we look over our neighbours' shoulders to see what they got. Every time someone got a letter from some exotic location with its foreign stamp I would let out a little sigh, and I thought: 'other people must feel the way I do too; everyone loves to get a great letter.'" It was a short step from there to conceiving the story line "which is basically about the male/female natures in a single individual". Bantock also drew some inspiration from a poem by Yeats, lines of which are buried in the text or pictures, like clues in a detective story. But Bantock deliberately made the plot cryptic. He hints that the Yeats poem contains clues to what happens to Griffin and Sabine. "I don't fill in the missing spaces. People have to think to do that." Griffin and Sabine is the first book of a trilogy, and the next one is due out a year from now.

NICK BANTOCK WORKS with Intervisual Communications of Los Angeles, which make 75 per cent of the pop-up books in the world. Creating these books is a time-consuming collaboration between Bantock as artist and Intervisual's 'paper mechanics'. First Bantock works out an idea on paper then builds a mock-up of his proposed book. He sends this to Los Angeles where the paper mechanics refine his work, because each pop up character must have as few' glue points' as possible or the cost of the book skyrockets. The paper mechanics send back a totally white working mockup of the book for Bantock to check. When he is satisfied he tells them to have the templates made. The cut-outs must be laid out in such a way as to waste the least possible paper. The printers then run off the flats and these are checked for errors. Then they are cut out and manually assembled and glued into the books. In the case of Griffin and Sabine, each envelope was stuffed and glued into place by hand. The first printing of this book totals 40,000.
0.87701-788-3

[BCBW 1991] “Art”


Windflower (Chronicle $29.95)
Article



After a combined run of more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller lists, the six “Griffin & Sabine” novels by artist and writer Nick Bantock were revived by Bantock for a romantic drama at the Arts Club Theatre, premiering last October. Simultaneously he has released Windflower (Chronicle $29.95), a fanciful, faux Italian tale of a strikingly beautiful caravan dancer, Ana, who flees an unwanted wedding. The action occurs in a timeless, fairy-tale zone with place names such as Capolan and Serona. Minus Bantock’s trademark array of assembled images, but illustrated with a variegated colour frieze at the bottom of each page, the text has been co-credited to Sophia Loren’s son, Edoardo Ponti, who is writing a screenplay adaptation.

0-8118-4352-1

[BCBW 2006]


The Pharos Gate: Griffin and Sabine’s Lost Correspondence
Article (2016)


from BCBW (Spring 2016)
It’s not quite Game of Thrones. But the success of Nick Bantock’s ‘cult’ series of art books, Griffin & Sabine, featuring illustrated postcards and removable letters, has no equal in B.C. literature. Bantock’s first three titles in 1991, 1992 and 1993 spent 100 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Now Bantock reveals the fate of the two estranged lovers, who are both artists, with The Pharos Gate: Griffin and Sabine’s Lost Correspondence (Chronicle / Raincoast $34.95). Griffin Moss in London vows to finally meet Sabine Strohem who lives in the South Pacific. It’s touted as the final volume in the series, in tandem with a 25th anniversary edition of the first volume.
978-1-4521-5125-0