Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock: An Extraordinary Tale About Art, Beauty, Madness, and Kindred Spirits

Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock – Book One of The Griffin and Sabine trilogy

Griffin Moss:

It’s good to get in touch
with you at last.
Could I have one of your
fish postcards?

Sabine Strohem

It was in 2002 that I had first witnessed this ‘extraordinary correspondence’ between London artist, Griffin Moss, and stamps designer, Sabine Strohem. The first postcard, featuring a parrot, had immediately drawn me to the story. There would always be the elements of intrigue and mystery in each turn of a page. Nick Bantock’s use of ‘false documents’ gives a sense of authenticity to the story, thereby giving the readers the ‘power’ to secretly read and uncover the secrets shared by Griffin and Sabine. If you have read this piece of art, then I ask that you rediscover the magic that links Griffin and Sabine. If you have not, then I invite you to join me as I give a walkthrough of the postcards and letters that have changed the lives of Griffin and Sabine.

These postcards and letters were found pinned to the ceiling
of the otherwise empty studio of Griffin Moss.

1st Postcard

The quote mentioned at the beginning of this review came from Sabine’s first postcard to Griffin. At first glance, it looks like any other postcard. It gives you the impression that Griffin and Sabine know each other. However…

2nd Postcard

It is then revealed that Griffin does not know anyone named Sabine Strohem. While the first postcard draws the readers to the story, the second postcard drags them in and they become tangled in a mystery.

I did a little research about the South Pacific, particularly Sicmon Islands, where Sabine claims she is from. The South Pacific islands include Samoa, Micronesia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, and Solomon Islands among others. There is no record indicating that Sicmon Islands exist, therefore the setting is purely a work of fiction.

A commentary on the postcard: While ‘drinking like a fish’ is an English idiom which means consuming large amounts of alcoholic beverages (http://idioms.yourdictionary.com/drink-like-a-fish), I would like to interpret this postcard as Griffin’s thirst for information about Sabine. And, slowly, the answers come to him…

3rd postcard

Having finally established who and where you are,
I feel compelled to reveal myself. (Sabine)

I can imagine Griffin being creeped out by Sabine’s revelation.
Could it be that he is being stalked?

4th postcard

If you have the same ‘paparazzi-stalker’ theory, then Griffin has just confirmed it for you in his second postcard sent to Sabine. However, it may also be inferred that Griffin is as drawn to Sabine as she is to him, especially when he writes in his post-script,

Your postcards are handmade—
Did you do them yourself?

A question requires an answer, and one question leads to another. And another. And another. Just like a “drinking fish,” Griffin and Sabine cannot stop writing to each other. In the same way, because each postcard offers a fresh information, readers cannot help but keep flipping and reading. After all, there is only so much one can read (or write) in a single postcard.

5th postcard

Things get more and more engaging as Sabine reveals yet another extraordinary thing:

I share your sight.
When you draw and paint, I see what you’re doing while you do it.
I know your work almost as well as I know my own. (Sabine)

This passage reminds me of a famous love sonnet by the great romanticist, Pablo Neruda. It is the same sonnet used in the movie, Patch Adams. Here is an excerpt:

so i love you because i know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as i fall asleep.

Even the part about the non-existence of “I” or “you” speaks of the cosmic force that links Griffin and Sabine. We are, however, getting ahead of ourselves. Please, read on…

6th postcard

Any ordinary human being would have ignored Sabine’s letter by now. But I would like to remind you that this is an extraordinary tale between two extraordinary beings (see title of review, ha!).

Why doesn’t this alarm me as much as it should?
I suppose because I’ve always sensed that I was being watched,
but I’d put it down to everyday paranoia. (Griffin)

This whole prospect of being watched excites Griffin so much that he develops a craving, a yearning for a stranger who calls herself ‘Sabine.’

I want to hear everything.
Write in detail.
Tell me all about yourself.
I demand to know—please. (Griffin)

Ain’t our boy wonder slick? He turns the table around and insists that Sabine tell him her life story. (He throws her the same question that Sabine asked him in her previous postcard.) Griffin is like a curious little boy with lots of questions. Thankfully, Sabine is not taken aback by this random twist of events. She did, after all, admit to being “compelled to reveal herself.” Didn’t she?

1st letter

Now that it comes to answering your questions
and telling you about myself, I feel oddly shy.
Not that this is a reason to hold back;
in fact I deem it a sign to press on. (Sabine)

Here are some facts about Sabine Strohem:

Father: Gust Strohem
Mother: Tahi Strohem
Father’s occupation: Curator at the National History Museum in Paris
Mother’s occupation: Midwife
Present Age: 28 years old

And here is the story about how she learned about Griffin Moss:

On the dawn of my fifteenth year I was lying in that easy state between sleep and wake when the image of a half-drawn flower came into my head. I was entranced. Gradually, it grew and changed, lines appeared and disappeared. I could see the picture but not the hand that created it. It was your drawing, Griffin—the first of hundreds of pictures I witnessed without knowing who made them.

So, how exactly did Sabine describe Griffin at the time?

You seemed destined to be an enigma forever.

Oh, such poetry in words! While Sabine’s narrative initially gave me goosebumps, it gave me so much joy knowing that the forces of the universe are at work here! For 13 years, Sabine has been plagued by the mystery of the artist. When the cosmos finally opened the door for them to meet, she did not hesitate to send Griffin her first postcard.

2nd letter

I see what you mean about getting shy…
I feel like climbing under the carpet. (Griffin)

Here are some facts about Griffin:

Father: Hungarian-Scottish
Mother: Italian-Irish
He was born in Dublin.
Moved to England when he turned one.

It must be nice to live in Griffin’s house, especially for a bibliophile like me.

Our house was a temple to The Book. We owned thousands, nay millions of books. They lined the walls, filled the cupboards, and turned the floor into a maze far more complex than Hampton Court’s. Books ruled our lives. They were our demi-gods.

When his parents died, Griffin moves in with his mother’s stepsister, Vereker, who teaches him the art of pottery. After being her apprentice for three years, Griffin leaves for Bristol Art College to become a fine artist.

After graduation, Griffin moves back to Totnes, but Vereker had moved to America. Two weeks later, Griffin receives a call informing him of Vereker’s death due to a brain tumor.

I stood in that cold little hall for ages, paralyzed with loneliness… If I had grieved, I’d have probably been okay. Instead, I sunk into a dark, drowning depression and stayed there for three months. Remembering it now still makes me numb.

Vereker leaves Griffin all her money, and he decides to use it to set up his own greeting card company. GRYPHON CARDS was to be dedicated to his idiosyncratic view of the universe.

In the last part of his letter, Griffin reveals that having Sabine write to him fills the void that Vereker created when she died. Perhaps this further explains why Griffin holds on to the idea of Sabine Strohem.

You don’t think we’re twins separated at birth, do you?
Or is that too simple? (Griffin)

A Short Commentary: Sabine’s vs Griffin’s Letter

SABINE’S LETTER GRIFFIN’S LETTER
Handwritten Typewritten
Naturally ‘flowy’ Stiff and formal
Feminine Masculine
Sepia, old-fashioned White, modern
Life on the islands Life in the city
No date – carefree, free spirit Always dated – concerned with time

7th Postcard

When I heard of Vereker’s death and your misery,
I found it hard to breathe. And hearing that my existence
eased your pain made my heart race.
We have found one another… (Sabine)

Really, what else is there to say?

8th Postcard

 

 

Griffin admits to doing some research about the strange phenomenon involving him and Sabine (i.e. twins separated at birth and telepathy). In the end, he prefers to think of their situation as unique. And I think he made the right choice. To put a label on something extraordinary devalues that ‘thing’ (whatever that ‘thing’ is), and the magic is no longer there. Also, things become more personal as feelings become involved:

I cheer myself by daydreaming of you and the south seas. (Griffin)

3rd Letter

Through the early postcards, readers are made aware that Sabine does her own artworks. However, it is not until her second letter to Griffin that she reveals how she works as the Sicmon Philatelic Designer. Each year she designs twenty-four stamps that are printed in Singapore and shipped straight from there. Occasionally, you might find one of them being distributed at places like the Western Union near me.

In answer to Griffin’s sentiment, Sabine writes,

I have always craved a closeness that I could not find here. Now I feel it with you. My kinsmen are responsive to me—but there is no one to reach my heart, and you who are so far away, have been closer to me than any man on the islands.

4th Letter

Griffin talks more about himself in his second letter to Sabine. In it, he reveals that part of him that had always been there but he never dared acknowledge.

I’ve been fooling myself with a fake sense of purpose.
Like George, my back is turned to an infinite sky
filled with violent spiral of silver clouds. (Griffin)

Sabine plays an important role in Griffin’s life. Sabine becomes the stronghold that protects Griffin from the waves of depression. She also serves as Griffin’s distraction from seeing Vereker in crowds. Sabine is becoming more and more a part of Griffin’s life than she ever imagines. She is more real to him than anything or anyone around him. The abstract that was once Sabine becomes more tangible as Griffin gets drawn closer and closer to her.

9th Postcard

There is only so much that Sabine could do to comfort Griffin in his solace. Time and distance are being unkind to them. She is worried that Griffin might do something bad to himself. She decides that, in order to counter his depression, she must find a way to return the affection. Because in Griffin’s own words,

We are lovers and I hadn’t realized it. (Griffin)

10th Postcard

This ‘thing’ between Griffin and Sabine that started as a mystery becomes more complicated as tension starts to build up.

When you found me, I thought my loneliness had gone for good.
I was kidding myself. I desperately desire your company. (Griffin)

In Griffin’s last letter to Sabine, he says,

It is all very well for you to take this telepathic link between us matter-of-factly. You’ve had years to adjust to it. And no doubt your society teaches patience and acceptance. Mine teaches obsessive logical enquiry.

Indeed, as a logical thinker—and a lonely, depressed soul—physical companionship makes more sense to Griffin. Moreover, he becomes frustrated because he cannot “see” Sabine’s artwork the way she “sees” his. He would have stopped believing in their “telepathic link” (as Griffin defines it) if not for the magic that Sabine brings for his ailing soul. Sabine becomes the “wonder pill” of our love junkie who goes by the name of Griffin.

How can I miss you this badly when we’ve never met? (Griffin)
(And yes, he is going through withdrawal. Ha!)

11th Postcard

If you don’t see my pictures there’s a good reason.
Sometimes willpower alone cannot make things happen. (Sabine)

This is where the forces of the universe are given greater attention. Remember how, in her first letter, Sabine described about the dream she had? That dream in which Griffin was drawing the flower? As opposed to willpower, dreams and visions come to us naturally. We do not force ourselves to dream. We just do.

This is what Sabine wants Griffin to understand. Sure, there will always be that question about how and why they are linked. But why even try to rationalize? Why not simply take pleasure in what they have?

12th Postcard

Unfortunately, words mean nothing to Griffin. He sinks deeper and deeper into his obsession. He is caught in the middle of his emotions, allowing them to consume him and take control of his life. His only chance—a photograph of Sabine.

13th Postcard

If you wish to see me,
why not come here? (Sabine)

I remember when people would tell a girl that if a guy truly loved her, then he would follow her wherever she goes. Similarly, Sabine is telling Griffin that if it is indeed her company that he seeks, then he should travel to Sicmon Islands and be with her. Again, Griffin’s attempts to convince her to physically reveal herself to him is not that simple, especially if he is dealing with a free spirit like Sabine.

What is there to stop you—
you’re clearly unhappy where you are.
Come. (Sabine)

As for the self-portrait that Sabine sent Griffin, Sabine writes,

A photograph would not be possible. I offer myself in paint instead.
It’s self-flattering, but that’s our prerogative as artists—
to record ourselves the way we wish. (Sabine)

 

I like how, even in self-portrait, Sabine identifies herself as one with the universe. Sabine’s self-portrait, such a magical piece of art, reminds me so much of the Forest Spirit in Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. The use of purple signifies mystery and spirituality, and represents the mystic. It is a combination of strong warm and strong cool colors, thereby having a balanced quality. (You can read more about the color purple at http://desktoppub.about.com/cs/colorselection/p/purple.htm)

Things have become so difficult. I mustn’t write again.
This whole affair has gotten too intense. (Griffin)

Upon Sabine’s refusal to give him a photograph of herself, Griffin Moss has completely lost it. Like the title of his postcard, Pierrot’s Last Stand, it was Griffin’s last postcard. He shuns Sabine from his world, denying her existence. He refuses to believe in her, claiming that she is merely a figment of his imagination and, sadly, a product of his loneliness and depression.

15th Postcard

Foolish man…
You do not dismiss a muse at whim. (Sabine)

Although unperturbed by Griffin’s denial of her, Sabine sets it upon herself to leave Sicmon Islands and search for him. She explains that just because he is afraid does not mean that he has to dismiss her as a phantom.

Griffin is missing. Where is he? Will Sabine ever find him? Or is this truly a descent to madness? These are questions waiting to be answered. And while author-illustrator Nick Bantock gives the impression that it is the end, readers are just beginning to uncover the facts surrounding the inexplicable link between these two strangers…

An Afterthought

Stories about kindred spirits are always fascinating. Although not an expert on this, I am a believer of this concept. Simply defined, a kindred spirit is someone who feels and thinks the same way that you do. (Others may have a more in-depth definition of the words.)

A kindred spirit does not have to be of the opposite sex or a lover. In fact, anybody can be your kindred spirit. As for who s/he might be (which can also be a ‘they’), I cannot answer this for you. Only you can.

I hope you enjoyed skimming through each postcard and letter as much as I had fun putting them together. Indeed, you are lucky and privileged to have seen the correspondence between Griffin and Sabine in its entirety. Have a stress-free day! =)

About the Author-Illustrator

Nick Bantock is an artist, illustrator, writer and creator of pop-up books. He is known for his Griffin and Sabine trilogy and for making collage popular. He began his career as a freelance artist, producing 300 book covers for 16 years. In 1993, he won the Bill Duthie Bookseller’s Choice Award for Griffin and Sabine.

 


 

References
Book photos are taken by me
Nick Bantock’s photo is taken from http://www.authorsontourlive.com/wp-images/Bantock.jpg
Nick Bantock’s biography is extracted from the back flap jacket of Griffin and Sabine and from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Bantock
The Forest Spirit’s photo is taken from http://images1.fanpop.com/images/photos/1500000/The-Spirit-of-the-forest-headless-princess-mononoke-1521778-460-340.jpg
For more information on Griffin and Sabine, visit http://www.nickbantock.com/Gryphon/Griffin_and_Sabine.html and http://www.nickbantock.com/

  1. myragarcesbacsal January 15, 2011 at 8:02 am

    WOW. THIS is LOOOONG. I will endeavor to read through everything dearest and write down my comments in an intelligible fashion. Yes, I understand that Morning Star is the final final installment to the two sets of trilogy. I question myself whether it is right to start from the end (at least on my end), but rather than read something which you’d already be featuring, I might as well read what I can. I won’t read mine until I’ve read both your reviews. =)

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  2. myragarcesbacsal January 15, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Ok. I read all your notes and viewed all the lovely photographs. And yes, we are intensely privileged to be a part of this correspondence through your post. Some of my thoughts:
    1. Griffin strikes me as your stereotypical male, with the raging (bordering on the obsessive desire) to physically consummate (does not have to be understood in its biological sense) what they have enigmatically and spiritually started. Yet at the same time, he is also very female in his ultimatums and what-strikes-me-as-a-temper-tantrum when a photograph was refused him. I do not mean to be gender-insensitive here, just stating stereotypes and typical perceptions of what it means to be masculine/feminine.
    2. I am drawn to the character of Sabine. As I am sure you are drawn as well, Fats.
    3. I adhere more to the concept of ‘soul groups’ rather than soul mates. It encompasses an even greater world view in that regard and takes more people in rather than exclusively making one’s world smaller with just one privileged individual ‘completing’ you – which I find to be utter nonsense.
    4. I am aching to touch the actual artwork in my hands. Will borrow from the library and have it on reserve. However, I do believe these books are something that I should own myself. I have half a mind to order the two sets of books.
    5. I am fascinated by the power of words and its eventual impotence when it comes to signifying cosmic connections. Thus, the colors, shades, hues of Sabine’s artwork. Yes, why articulate that which is felt and sensed to be true and real and simply is.
    6. Do you think that the paintings/postcards that are hand-drawn communicate an entirely different set of meaning as opposed to the narratives? Do they complement/enhance the written text? Or do they suggest an opposing set of emotions entirely?
    7. I love this statement: “You do not dismiss a muse at whim.” How foolish of Griffin to even consider that. Sometimes, you are just amazed at man’s folly and utter ignorance.
    8. I like how you cited Neruda and how you included the photo of the tree spirit from Mononoke (which I miss – I shall watch Miyazake again this evening).
    9. The table that you have created is just fantastic. I love how you were able to contrast the two figures together. So alike yet clearly different. And no, you have not forgotten how to content analyze. I am so proud of you, my psych baby.

    Being closeted by a world of statistics, graphs, derivatives, tables, and operational definitions – I rejoice in this correspondence and I thank you for being so comprehensive and exhaustive about this. This is my favorite post yet.

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  3. Such an EQUALLY LONG commentary indeed. =)

    Nick Bantock is a genius, and his work is a jewel like no other. Every time I see it, I just want to encase it in a glass. Griffin and Sabine is such a refined piece of art that my eyes water upon the sight of the postcards.

    I think Griffin has a borderline personality disorder. Or can he be manic-depressive perhaps? Haha. I guess one cannot partly blame him for desperately wanting to meet Sabine in person, especially since she was the only one he communicated with after the death of his step-aunt. A yearning for a female/mother figure in his life. BUT YES, I agree. Stereotypical male.

    Good question on Number 6. Definitely something to think about. (Suddenly, I miss those quiet moments we had at Seattle’s Best exchanging opinions about books.) I did notice, however, that in the last 3 postcards sent by Griffin – starting from ‘Frankie and Johnny’ to ‘Pierrot’s Last Stand’ – the drawings appear to complement the emotions portrayed in his letters. I got lost in my thoughts that I forgot to mention it. There is simply too much to absorb in such a short book.

    Neruda is a favorite, and that sonnet of his will linger in my mind forever. So happy I am able to include it in this review. Isn’t it grand? To be in a place where neither “I” nor “you” exists. Sabine’s self-portrait deserves a work of art that is as equally beautiful. Like the sonnet, the image of the Forest Spirit is imprinted in mind forever.

    The content analysis of the letters came out as instinct. I hadn’t really thought of it until I saw Griffin’s first typewritten note. Also, if I may add, typing his letter may be his means of masking his emotions. Typical of someone who protects his ego.

    I am glad you enjoyed this walkthrough. I’ve written a lot of reviews in the past years that I couldn’t choose a favorite. However, this is by far my most exhaustive review. To have these beautiful postcards and letters complement it was such extreme pleasure. =)

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  4. When I learned of the themes for the next two months this book was top of my mind. It had to be included. It was a long time ago when I read this series. I think this review captures some of the nuances that one takes from reading it. If anything, I enjoyed the whole exercise of opening the envelopes and viewing the artwork while reading this book. The mystery behind Griffin and Sabine’s connection itself is as fascinating as the artwork themselves.

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    1. myragarcesbacsal January 15, 2011 at 10:49 pm

      You’ve read the trilogy? Pray tell more.

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      1. Yes I have. I read it a long time ago. If I am not mistaken they have a child. I can’t recall much of the book anymore. Hehe.

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    2. Diba? It’s the reader’s “voyeuristic privileges” that make this book so much fun to read. I read the ending of Sabine’s Notebook last night. Gave me goosebumps. I can’t wait to find out what’s in store for me in the sequel.

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  5. I have been researching a KATIN stamp under poured, hardened plastic and with a pin backing. I see that it is from the first postcard. hmmm what to do with this tho?! Where would I find a market for this delightful pin?
    Lovely site BTW, and truly fascinating understand some of my pins’ history!

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    1. Hi hollyhobbiedayz! =)

      Thank you. Yes, the first postcard is truly captivating. It sticks in the mind of readers because it also happens to be the front cover illustration. You said you own a pin with this design? I am curious myself as to where I can find these stamps, if they exist at all. Did you try googling it? I was going to, when I was writing the review but completely escaped my mind. When I find out something I would definitely let you know.

      Feel free to explore GatheringBooks. Have a lovely day! =)

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    2. By the way, I will be posting a review of the next 2 Griffin & Sabine books. I hope you drop us a visit again and check them out. =)

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  6. I’m treading dangerously above the drain of madness, here but – this has been on my mind lately –

    “Foolish man…
    You do not dismiss a muse at whim.” (Sabine)

    So, I searched that exact phrase… and ended up here this morning. This is the freshest site I’ve found in a long while.

    No challenges here – just thoughts:

    Myra…

    1) He may be stereotypical, but you are correct. I have never thought of it as gender-insensitive, rather somewhat gender-reversal. (Although old, think “Dead Again”, here – with E. Thompson and K. Branagh, 1991) It works in GnS for a long while.

    5) “eventual impotence”? I am not correcting you at all. But after a decade, the words are still very potent to me. (“…dismiss a muse” comes to my mind!)

    7) Men can be “thick.” Ask me how I know – I am one of them.

    The remainder of this reply is without GnS or Sabine’s Notebook with me (I only have the Morning Star handy on my coffee table since shipping three sets plus the first two of another one off long ago).

    By the end, the correspondences seem to change. Griffin has begun to write instead of type. So G began to relax his protectiveness of his ego. Or did he?

    This, initially, is what led me to think of either madness or gender-reversal, ala “Dead Again.” but, I honestly was left with questions that are still unclear 10+ years later.

    Myra –

    “You’ve read the trilogy? Pray tell more.”

    The trilogy leaves may questions. Tantalizing questions.

    And it is, as Fats : ) says, comprised of “voyeuristic privileges.”

    I can only say this –

    I have met Sabine.

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    1. myragarcesbacsal February 13, 2011 at 7:04 pm

      Moss:
      Now if it isn’t that the most enigmatic comment we’ve had so far, I honestly don’t know what is.

      I am happy that you found the site refreshing in its sharing of whimsical ideas, celebration of strangenesses and our own varied fragments of reality – oftentimes segmented, occasionally sharp-edged, but nonetheless, real.

      To reply to your thoughts:
      1. I have not yet seen Dead Again – will see if I can find it in our video stores or libraries.
      5. You may be right. Words do have a different kind of power that linger. Yet ‘unsaid’ words or ‘unarticulated’ sentiments are equally powerful. And sometimes, even more so.
      7. The recognition of “thickness” suggests that you are not beyond hope, after all. Haha.

      I have just received notice that I can pick up my six-book set at the post office – possibly in two days’ time. Hopefully, the enigmatic shadows would clear themselves once I read the books (or there are just certain cracks in the walls where the shadows should firmly reside – they never leave – as in your “I have met Sabine” line which I won’t even ask about but couldn’t resist making reference to here). As elusive as this book has been to me for the past years, I do believe that it will come to me when I am ready for it. I shall know soon and will keep you posted.

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      1. Thank you for the prompt reply. I hadn’t expected it.

        “Hopefully, the enigmatic shadows would clear themselves once I read the books…”

        Don’t bet heavily on it. ; )

        Fats – Excellent thread. Thank you for allowing it to be found. I’m looking forward to more from you and all.

        Enjoy the day.

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      2. You are welcome, Moss. =)

        Feel free to recommend books that have the same appeal to you as Griffin & Sabine. We will search our libraries and post reviews on them. Have a wonderful day yourself. =)

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      3. myragarcesbacsal February 14, 2011 at 8:23 am

        It’s good that I have what is known as “tolerance for ambiguity” (haha) – and I look forward to the presence of shadows that serve to illuminate rather than conceal. T’is all a matter of perspective and cognitive restructuring after all. And yes, as Fats mentioned do let us know if you have more book ideas that appealed to you, and we’d definitely look those up.

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  7. I needed to edit that last (my first) post for grammar. Sorry – mea culpa.

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    1. A pleasant morning to you, Moss. =)

      Search engines can do wonders for you sometimes, can they not? I am delighted that you found yourself here, right in the very heart of Griffin & Sabine. Whether or not you were meant to end up here, I leave it to the stars.

      I have read all books from the Griffin & Sabine trilogy and The Morning Star trilogy. The story of Griffin & Sabine remains a complete mystery to me. I did not find it disappointing, although reading it again would only add chills down my spine.

      Like Myra, I have not seen Dead Again. I have read part of the synopsis, and yes it does have a GnS (as you put it) feel to it. Maybe I can find it on Netflix later. If I do, I would most certainly mention it on my reviews for Sabine’s Notebook and The Golden Mean.

      I take it that your Sabine was not as elusive as Ms Strohem?

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      1. There are no accidents – only questions whose answers are later to be revealed. At least that’s what I was told once. I think it’s true. So, I’m glad to have stopped by your site. Thanks for the welcome.

        I’m still mystified, as well, and every now and again I have to revisit it. By the way, your synopsis here has given me chills even after re-reading it a second and third time.

        My memory has failed me a bit with the details of this trilogy (which is why I’m excited to hear more from you guys on this), and I can only add this about Dead Again without spoiling it for you: it is not nearly as overwhelming as Bantock’s work with Griffin and Sabine is… … but it does get one thinking. Perhaps you’ll find it enjoyably provocative.

        “I take it that your Sabine was not as elusive as Ms Strohem?”

        Nope. But it was star crossed.

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  8. All:

    Fats, I’d like to apologize for mentioning the movie in these posts. I just watched it again after ten or more years, and – while intriguing – it doesn’t do Bantock’s story any justice. It may be best to leave any reference to it out of further reviews.

    The notion of gender-reversals (and parallel planes and “unseen hands”) always seemed to resonate in me with respect to Griffin and Sabine. Your suggestion, Myra, of Griffin’s “female” behavior is something I’ve always wondered about and it prompted me to think of that example. (What an odd thing word association can be, huh?!?)

    Be well, everyone.

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    1. Hello, Moss.

      I have just posted my feature on Sabine’s Notebook and The Golden Mean. Have a nice day! =)

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  9. myragarcesbacsal February 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Hello Fats, I’ve just finished reading the first book and here are my thoughts – I’ve been furiously writing down little notes and I know we may run the risk of overanalyzing the artwork and the correspondence but what the hell, let’s take a chance:

    1. Female Leads, Male dutifully Follows – to a point.
    The correspondence begins with Sabine’s postcard which Griffin responded to using the images that Sabine refers to in her first message (“Could I have one of your fish postcards?”). When Sabine started writing down her thoughts in letter-format, Griffin followed in kind. When Sabine went back to sending postcards, Griffin did the same thing. It may just be the stylistic intent of Nick Bantock and may have no real meaning – but I thought it was curious and worth pointing out. It is interesting that the reference to “love” was first mentioned though by Griffin.

    2. A play in contrasts.
    In Griffin’s postcard ‘The Alchemist’ – there is Griffin’s statement: “I demand to know – please.” The haughty order [with a sense of entitlement even] and the request/bordering-on-plea-slight-desperation combined. While Sabine revels in complexity and the interplay of forces beyond herself and within her control – Griffin seems disturbed and scared off by these.

    3. Find Me. Come.
    There is that subtle (eventually articulated), unvoiced sentiment in Sabine’s very first letter. She has provided a map that would pinpoint her exact location. The only thing missing is the huge red X that marks the spot. I also sensed Sabine’s apologetic tone in her “Please don’t feel invaded – it’s not like that” – the desire to appease.
    And the all-too-powerful phrase “Yes I can only see you.” – I’ve used this phrase quite a number of times with people whom I .. see. And I know how it can move people to greater intimacy, or they fly off to the hills, disappearing from your life forever. There are times when I question myself when I say this, but I have no regrets. Because it is what it is.

    4. “Pain and beauty, our constant bedfellows”
    I like this particular quote from Sabine’s ‘father.’ Why is this often the case, I wonder. The extremes of opening one’s self up to sheer joy and yes sheer darkness as well. And your readiness for it.

    5. The Beginning. Michaelangelo’s The Creation.
    I am not sure if you have seen this likeness between Griffin’s first letter-design (the man with the elongated nose swallowed by a fish) – somehow it reminded me of Michaelangelo’s Creation artwork –there is also the “lion for a heart” as Griffin describes himself as “beavering away.”

    6. Indeterminate Origins and Spelling Errors
    They are indeed islands on to themselves “Island magic works on island souls” as Sabine pointed out. Sabine’s mysterious parentage and Griffin’s mixed ancestry – and the feeling of not belonging, of being off-kilter, ‘not-from-here.’ I like the fact that when Griffin asked for some “magic that will heal my ailing soul” Sabine sent this postcard with a dreamcatcher in it (did I read the artwork correctly?) – very sad though that Griffin’s inability to catch Sabine’s thoughts and ‘see her’ as she sees him – has driven him to escape from out of his skin.

    Did you notice Griffin’s spelling errors: “typest” “kangeroo” – and his typing errors that would require handwritten corrections – I feel that the formality of the typewritten missives was tempered by these errors and the edits made.

    7. “How strange to have a paper love.”
    True, how very strange indeed. Yet sometimes emails, love notes, airmail packages with photos and captions are all you could have. And all that there is. It could become a parallel world on its own. Strange, nevertheless real. Yet its power and magic can drive one to transform it into something bigger than it could actually be in ‘real life’ – thus the parallel existence through paints, poetry, and the silence in between. And inevitably, it ends.

    Would be reading Book 2 and post my comment on your latest review.

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    1. This trilogy is getting a lot of analysis, isn’t it. After reading your comment ma’am, i felt i needed to write a few notes on this book which i read gazillion years ago.

      1. The dynamic of the change in postcard to letter and all that, in my experience in correspondence it’s naturally occurring. I’ve written a lot of letters and often i find myself mirroring the same behavior as the other. My friend used to send me postcards and i would do the same, then she’d said me letters in notebook paper i’d do the same or in the case of fats and i bookmarks go back and forth. It is in some way politeness, isn’t it? Or could it also mean, that Sabine being the initiator and Griffin as the responder, that Griffin is also measuring how intimate they can go and testing the water.

      2. I just wanted to say, i suddenly remembered why this book resonated with me, it was the whole idea of letter writing. I love writing letters and sending postcards. There was something so personal about it that email cannot even compensate. I actually felt a bit sad when it became old fashioned. I fell in love with letter writing even more after reading this. I even wanted to learn the author’s process of creating such collages.

      Those are my out of nowhere thoughts on this book and i actually like being the spectator to everyone’s comments than a participant. hahaha.

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      1. myragarcesbacsal May 1, 2011 at 10:01 am

        Hi Mary! I never get tired of reading this thread. Feeds the soul. I haven’t opened my six-book copy yet, and I am excited to be sharing the trilogy for our Anniversary special.

        Regarding your notes. For #1, I suppose you are right, it doesn’t have to be Female Leads, Male dutifully follows. Haha. Although of course, I’d prefer to be it that way.

        #2, yes, I miss writing letters. Miss miss miss writing letters – not emails, not post-it notes – but letters written in handmade paper using a fountain pen, your thoughts flying as you pen down one word after the other. I also do collages if and when I am inspired and I feel that the person is worth the trouble. Sadly, that time seems to be over.

        And you are hardly a spectator. We pull you in even as you try to resist. =)

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  10. […] Mary who left this comment in Fats’ initial review of Griffin and Sabine as could be found here – a review that has generated a great many comments from so many likeminded individuals, such a […]

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  11. […] book of the Griffin & Sabine trilogy. (Re-visit their first correspondence by reading this review.) Their extraordinary correspondence continues with Sabine’s Notebook and concludes in The […]

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  12. I love this post and all of the responses this post has received. i’m enjoying reading it almost as much as I enjoyed the Griffin and Sabine books when I first read them years ago. I was hoping to get some suggestions for a room I’m designing in my house inspired by Griffin Moss. Think of the room as a virtual narrative. I’m starting with a bed, some original sketches from Griffin and Sabine that I’ve been so so so so fortunate to acquire, and I’ve been eyeing an old fashioned leather chair which has the Union Jack flag embossed on back. What do you think you might find on the wall or in the room of Griffin’s studio or bedroom? I’m sure there would be lots of books…. Any ideas from you or those that have made prior posts would be greatly appreciated.

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    1. Hello Cheri! So nice of you to drop by, and I’m glad you enjoyed reading this post and the thread that went with it!

      Regarding your question, try googling familiar metaphors, phrases, and/or names, then create your own images that would represent these (i.e. Griffin’s Frankie and Johnny postcard, or the fish and the broken glass). You may include portraits of his cat Minnaloushe, and maybe his own visions of Sabine and of the island she’s from. Another set of images that came to mind was the transformation of a cat to a sphinx to an image of Sabine.

      I definitely see a canvas in his room, a spiral staircase on the side, and perhaps a “shrine” of all things related to Sabine including the postcards that she sent him to represent his obsession with his elusive siren. I don’t see a mirror in his room because he is a man who is afraid to face his own demons. If he had one, then it would be in the farthest corner of the room, covered and unexposed to the universe. I see a desk filled with art and writing materials, and on the wall by the desk is a cork board with random notes and a few photos.

      Those are all I could think of for now. I will let you know if I come up with more ideas. =)

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  13. Thanks for all of your suggestions, Frankie. I’m DEFINITELY going to use some of these ideas. Fish postcard, check! I really like the idea of personalizing it with a pic of his cat and, you are right, a shrine to Sabine is a necessity. Perhaps I should have his cat painted on the bottom of the wall…hmmm. Maybe a Gryphon? Again, thank you for your amazing post and any additional suggestions you or your readers have are appreciated!!!

    Keep posting…

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  14. […] reviews we had – particularly our Poetry Friday posts – I would still dare claim that Fats’ post on Griffin and Sabine would be the most enigmatic and heated and interesting one to […]

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  15. Hi Fats, I have sent a copy of the first book to Sabine’s Griffin. 😉 Time (as teased out from a different dimension, perhaps?) will only tell if touching the actual postcards shall galvanize him into ‘action’ or further inaction, as is Griffin’s wont. But as the book says, “You do not dismiss a muse at whim” – perfect indeed for foolish men regardless of their beautiful and heartfelt intentions.

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  16. […] one, it reminds me of the Griffin and Sabine story, particularly the Morning Star Trilogy, and its mirage-like quality that just seems so […]

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  17. […] My Griffin has always lived in a parallel universe, I thought I might as well capture him yet again: Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock. […]

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  18. […] and Sabine trilogy means a great deal to us here at GatheringBooks. See Fats’ review of Griffin and Sabine, Sabine’s Notebook, The Golden Mean. I also wrote a fairly extensive review of The Morning […]

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