4 out of 5
You will think of Borges. You will definitely think of Morrison. W. Maxwell Prince seems aware of this, and would probably claim he’s okay with it… While also admitting that the comparison wrankles him. Because all he really wants to do is read – about science, about art, reading the classics, reading the crap – read and think about it, and talk about it, and sometimes that process is going to involve a Borges, or a Morrison. Or Prince.
One Week in the Library proposes a world made of stories; the universe as a library, wherein every story we’ve seen or read – likely everything we’ve experienced – is contained within a book on one of its shelves. Life as a story. And there’s a librarian, certainly, who tends to the stock, wandering from aisle to aisle somewhat serendipitously, and recounting to us seven short tales he reads / experiences, broken up by days of the week. The tales vary from eye-opening contemplations to recognizable parables, the narrator taking a day / story to explain the fantastical structure of the library, the “living” words, and the lack of an exit. But every door leads into a book… Certainly that is a type of exit?
The librarian talks to himself in and through the stories, inevitably blurring the line between his reality and that of those whose stories he reads. And then Maxwell Prince gets involved in the story too…
While he sheepishly admits to this narrative trick having been used before, Prince’s honesty in its application – that it does seem justified in the context of his novel – avoids any wankery sensibilities. What separates him from those that came before is where I started with this and the conclusion he comes to: One Week isn’t a Morrison universe rewrite, or some studied attempt to be profound; it’s a contemplation on story, and on itself. It’s thinking, expressed as a fanciful narrative. Prince includes himself because they’re his thoughts and, as he says, it felt right.
John Amor’s art has an Americanized ligne claire sense to it, but with a draftsman’s eye for its backgrounds and graphs, making for a purposefully balanced blend of surreal imagery set upon solid footing (fitting that Frazier Irving contributes the cover to this, as he’s a master of complex but precise arrangements). Kathryn Layno’s soft colors are a wise match, meeting the dream / reality demands, and Good Old Neon uses an appropriately literary set of fonts.
It ends mid-sentence. And it’s imperfect, going a bit too far out of the way to justify its technique, maybe skimping on structure when it suits it when some more rigorous plot beats could have expanded the story tenfold. But, again, we can turn to the text: the tale closes with the following quote: “A poem is never finished; it is only abandoned.”
I think W. Maxwell Prince is okay with it being imperfect.