I don’t know anything about Anne Opotowsky.
Running a webface check, I goggled her, I twotted and discovered…nothing. She’s not to be found.
I emailed her publisher Gestalt in Perth once, ages ago, and asked them to update the ‘authors’ section of their website. They emailed back and said that they were getting a whole new website soon. They did, and now there is a short, slightly dissatisfying bio there which suggests she may have written for film, books, docos…how can such a writer exist in the world and not be more well known? I’d like this explained please.
Anne’s book occasionally comes and sits by me whilst I sleep, for a few months at a time. It’s always a cluttered spot; the lamp precariously placed above this monumental pile; notepads, drawings, zines, comics, novels. This minor mountain range is founded on one great monolith— the substantial and constant biography of TGH Strehlow by Barry Hill, Broken Song. Each year ticks by and I get a little further into it, and then Teddy Strehlow sinks back under the mountain to take up its place as the bedrock once again. When Anne Opotowsky makes her way to the mountain of books again, she doesn’t tend to sink. She’s too mysterious. I know nothing about her. Her oversized graphic novel His Dream of the Skyland sits atop this Great Dividing Range and taunts me with its questions.
There are others that return to the top of the mountain from time to time to sit next to Anne. Pat Grant occasionally clambers up the slopes demanding attention—Blue is a crafted object, a beautiful book, which depicts Australia better than most novels I’ve come across. The stench of old chips being gobbled by crusty teenagers smeared in tomato sauce and too much salt. The stink of us is in it. The ambience of an uneasy paranoia that has no definite shape. Or perhaps a fantastical shape: a skittle-shaped boat person with tentacles that resemble the noodles it devours.
Brecht Evens has managed to do something I thought was impossible in The Making Of. His art is so incredible that I ignore the fact that his story centres on a character that I could never possibly like. Even Habibi by Craig Thompson couldn’t manage this feat. Thompson doesn’t even venture back to the foothills of my bedside mountain.
Eddie Campbell’s drawings saved From Hell from Alan Moore’s hellish text. His Victorian London is dense, so very dense. Another of Campbell’s, Alec: The Years Have Pants, reveals that he is truly one of the best raconteurs in comics, possible in all literature. I keep rereading Campbell again and again, especially Alec and his Bacchus series a remarkable body of work in graphic fiction.
But these people I know. Or I believe I do. I can find things to read about them and other works they’ve done; I feel that I understand the context of their books. My mind can rest once this is achieved. I rode a bike with Pat Grant for a couple of hours once: a great deal of trouble to get inside the world-view of that particular author. Eddie Campbell once returned an email I sent him, and I saw him perform on stage in Hobart with Neil Gaiman. And there’s always the fact that he lives in Australia, which gives me the confidence that we share a true connection.
I’m not sure what difference it makes to know who a writer is. Perhaps what dogs me about Opotowsky is the fact that her book is so damn mysterious. But the added enigma of her person has driven me to distraction. Her book, His Dream of the Skyland, is the first part in a graphic novel trilogy called The Walled City Trilogy. It is set in a Hong Kong of long ago with an elusive theme and an elusive plot. I feel at its heart it is not really a comic, it is a poem. This isn’t surprising since the title is taken from Li Po’s (Li Bai) poem from the Sixth century. The book is infused with a narrator’s voice who feels so removed from the events that it renders the events of the story with a dream-like brush.
After reading the new bio for Opotowsky on the Gestalt website I reread the book again. This was driving me crazy—who is she? The artist of the book, Aya Morton, was equal to the text with her gestural and evocative art, but as a person she was less mysterious: she had a website. I sent an email to her about how much I enjoyed her art (this is the truth, her artwork is exquisite and incredibly creative in its movement across the page). She replied soon after. She lives in Germany. She thanked me for my compliments. She informed me that each book in the series will be set in a different time. Each will have art by a different artist with the next to be by one Angie Hoffmeister. Angie lives and works in Dusseldorf. It will be available in 2014.
All good information.
But she told me nothing about Opotowsky.
Are they playing hard to get?
Perhaps I should have emailed back ‘Does Opotowsky exist???’
His Dream of the Skyland sits atop the mountain. An incredible work. Its only flaw is its use of a jarring type and computer generated voice-balloons over the exquisite hand-made images. I know how difficult the integration of words in pictures can be from my own experience so I overlook this each time I sink into the strange subtropical nostalgia.
The density of a culturally confusing colonial Hong Kong is intoxicating: opium dens; secret night-time forays to the docks to steal crates; mountains of paper in British-built dead-letter offices; umbrellas falling from the sky; mountains are visible when the story moves out to water, away from the incessant buildings; magic tricks.
A magic book.
Joshua grew up in suburban Melbourne, has lived in Sydney, Alice Springs and Hobart where he now lives with his wife Nadine Kessler and their veggie patch. He has worked in mental health as a nurse for a number of years, working in Central Australian Aboriginal communities and in Hobart, Tasmania. In 2013 they started San Kessto Publications together. His graphic novel, The Long Weekend in Alice Springs, was published in 2013. This book was adapted from the 2004 essay of the same name by Craig San Roque about the psychology of cultural group behaviours. Josh saw this graphic novel as a brilliant synthesis of his experience working in mental health in Central Australia and his love of art, comics and anthropology.