This is a very special entry of The Hypothetical Library for two reasons. One being that Gabrielle Bell’s 2002 début collection, When I’m Old and Other Stories, was the first book I ever designed. And second, because this entry is a kind of hypothetical, hypothetical book cover.
Let me explain.
Gabrielle has her own blog—Lucky—where she posts her stories in progress. Her work ranges from straightforward autobiography to a kind of skewed magical realism.
As of this posting Gabrielle has just completed her most recent story, manifestation. In this piece, Gabrielle recounts how she offered to adapt Valerie Solanas’s S.C.U.M. Manifesto for a feminist comics anthology, only to immediately regret the offer the next day. The story continues as she attempts to address the commitment, and struggles with the adaptation. Through the magic of comics many cultural figure make cameos: Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Colbert, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey (who plugs Gabrielle’s other book in the story What My Mother Taught Me), Andy Warhol, Valerie Solanas, and Gabrielle’s mother.
By the end of manifestation, Gabrielle has done the adaptation and devotes several panels to the manifesto’s visualization. This, however, is only for the purpose of her larger story. The actual, complete adaptation from beginning to end doesn’t exist—and this is where the Hypothetical Library comes in. Consider the panels from Gabrielle’s story as the flap copy. With it, you get a sense of how the final complete adaptation might look were she to ever actually do it.
A hypothetical cover for a hypothetical adaptation of an actual book.
As I mentioned above, I worked with Gabrielle at the start of her cartooning career. Over the years I’ve watched her considerable talents grow, and become more nuanced and focused. She is a cartoonist who has never taken a step backwards. Her work always gets better and better with every effort. If you haven’t yet had the chance, please go and read manifestation. I think it is a perfect showcase for her strengths as a storyteller and her recurring themes: the humor, confusion, and exhaustion of daily life.
I should point out that Gabrielle and I do not in any way advocate the beliefs put forth in the S.C.U.M. Manifesto. But it is a cultural object and—as far as we are concerned—available for comment. In the end, Gabrielle’s story isn’t really about Valerie Solanas or the S.C.U.M. Manifesto. It’s about procrastination, confronting a difficult topic, and having a task you really don’t want to do while the eyes of several people are on you waiting for results—kind of like having a blog.
We hope you enjoy this strange hypothetical, hypothetical cover, and let me recommend that you visit Gabrielle’s blog Lucky. Spend some time there and enjoy her non-hypothetical work.
The S.C.U.M. Manifesto—The hypothetical flap copy (link)
The promotional quote—Gabrielle's mother
"I'll tell you one thing, Val was a piece of work, but she was right about some things."
Gabrielle Bell is the author of three books. When I’m Old and Other Stories presents a selection of work from her self-published series The Book of... Her second book, Lucky, collects stories from her ongoing minicomic series of the same name, of which the third issue won a 2003 Ignatz Award for Most Outstanding Minicomic. Her most recent collection, Cecil and Jordan in New York Stories, gathers strips from several anthologies, including Kramer’s Ergot, Mome, and Drawn and Quarterly Showcase. Gabrielle has appeared in two volumes of the Best American Comics series, and has been selected again for the 2010 edition.
Film maker Michel Gondry adapted the title story of Cecil and Jordan, retitled as Interior Design, for the movie anthology Tôkyô!. Gabrielle directed the film inside the film for Interior Design.
For a more comprehensive biography, please go here.