(Arbeiter Ring Publishing,) GUEST REVIEW BY ROBERT DAYTON
If you don’t think that art and politics should mix, then vamoose with you. Wait! Come back! Sit down and listen…I mean, read this new graphic novel called The Listener. Yeahhh edutainment! David Lester is known in music circles as the guitarist in the longtime legendary Vancouver intense avant rock duo Mecca Normal , he is also an artist and graphic designer, The Listener is his first graphic novel, eight years in the making, it is 300 pages long! Black and white and heavy washes ranging all over the grey scale taking stylistic risks that borrow from German Expressionist cinema- often this works, occasionally the odd visual element can be difficult to discern.
This is the Personal as Political. The central character is an artist named Louise. After one of her art pieces spurs a man to take a political action that accidentally causes his death, she leaves Canada and heads to Europe. There she meets numerous people, some of a romantic nature, as they muse and discuss the meaning of art and the power it has. Most impacting is her chance meeting with an elderly couple who saw Hitler’s rise to power firsthand via the 1933 German Elections. At this point flashbacks entwine with present day probings. These rarely told details of the 1933 elections (which David Lester extensively researched) tellingly correspond with the current Canadian political climate showing how certain figures can rise to power, when less than forty percent of the populace vote for them, due to flawed political voting structures and party take-overs. This connection is never made explicit, of course, Lester is too smart for that because nowadays everything gets compared to Hitler, including my delicious breakfast.
It is this encounter that helps Louise work through her guilt. The Listener can cause one to use what personal power they have to try and create a difference. Of course, this graphic novel is realistic enough to show that there will always be naysayers and those who simply just do not get it (nor try to get it). Through acknowledging that fact, it makes utilizing the power of creativity a little easier.