Cecil and Jordan in New York

Cecil and Jordan in New York

By Correy Baldwin

A review of Cecil And Jordan In New York by Gabrielle Bell

Published on November 2, 2009

Cecil And Jordan In New York
Gabrielle Bell

Drawn & Quarterly
$19.95
cloth
152pp
978-1-897299-57-9

When a young girl is distraught after being taunted by the school bully, a strange but sympathetic student takes her hand and whispers earnestly, “Take this and don’t tell anyone who gave it to you. Even if your life depends on it.” He sneaks away, and the girl opens her hand to find that she is holding an acorn. It is at once mysterious, goofy, and tender – a moment that sums up Cecil and Jordan in New York, the latest collection of stories from the accomplished Gabrielle Bell.

These are curious tales, with unassuming beginnings and curious endings. They gather the fleeting, everyday experiences whose gradual accumulation comes to define our lives. Dilemmas are rarely obvious, or simple: Bell crafts subtle, complex stories.

Bell tweaks her artistic style in keeping with the mood of each story, though she always draws with a light, understated touch, lending her stories an intimacy and sense of melancholy. The opening panels are rich in colour, elsewhere her lines grow thin and hesitant. In a story about teenage loneliness, we observe the characters from a distance.

The occasional absurdist touch lends a further playfulness to the book, especially in the opening story: we are encouraged to suspend our expectations when the main character quite matter-of-factly turns herself into a chair. In a later story Bell indulges in dream-like surrealism, though there it seems to lack intention, and the story lacks direction.

Bell flirts dangerously with this tendency, mostly emerging unscathed. Many of the stories lack direction, or indeed resolution, but in the end they are strangely satisfying. We are moved, without knowing why. Bell’s narratives may wander, but at least she is leading us. mRb

Correy Baldwin is publisher of Buffalo Runs Press.

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