Book of Hours: A Wordless Novel Told in 99 Wood Engravings (Graphic Novels)

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9780889843356: Book of Hours: A Wordless Novel Told in 99 Wood Engravings (Graphic Novels)

In the Book of Hours, award-winning wood engraver George A. Walker creates a modern-day, secular devotional that captures in narrative imagery what is too devastating for words: the individual moments of innocence and routine life that ended with the onslaught of 9/11.

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From the Author:

9/11 split our world in two: the world before the attacks and the world after. This wordless homage is a marker in time; it is not a critique of the tragedy, but neither is it complacent documentation. There have been other earthshattering events in our history: the sinking of the Titanic proved false the assumption of technology's power over nature, while the atomic bombing of Japan shook our understanding of war. In this same respect, the events of September 11th, 2001 changed dramatically our sense of Western security. The victims of 9/11 were confident and faithful in their daily routine, without any reason to expect the impending devastation. They were neither fearful nor suspicious. They were unprepared -- and how could we expect them to be otherwise?

The Book of Hours takes us from September 10th, 2001 until the morning of September 11th. The reader follows the office workers as they go about an average day, drinking coffee and answering phones, waiting patiently in traffic to return home to their lovers. This is the moment I wish to capture: the mindset of the unprepared. Most of us live our lives innocently attached to daily routine and immersed in familial concerns. There are few other ways to live.

Although politics is often the focus when thinking about 9/11, the issue of innocent life lost leads us deeper into the problem of who is responsible. `Why?' is the dominant question when we are faced with the inexplicable. There are many explanations for why the Twin Towers fell, but few of them relieve our anxiety. We wait in fear for a political solution to the threat, and we wonder if one will ever be negotiated. We cannot tolerate a police state, yet it seems like the inevitable result of ever-increasing security measures. The Book of Hours reminds us that there is a human cost to every political decision.

Other artists like Goya and Picasso have used political anxieties as topics for their work, but what sets the Book of Hours apart is its lack of words and its sequential narrative. I was inspired by the work of Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward and Otto Nückel; they, too, struggled with similar injustices and documented their world in a narrative of images. No words can describe 9/11's devastating impact and transformative power in our collective consciousness. Imagery is a universal language that crosses national and linguistic boundaries, and the woodcuts specifically recall a time before the phrase `9/11' had any meaning, even though that time is now irretrievable.

The text is called the Book of Hours because it is, largely and also paradoxically, an exploration, condemnation and celebration of our culture's devotion to time and the way our regimental routines can both reassure and also strangle us in tumultuous times. In the fifteenth century, a Book of Hours told the devoted when to pray and what to say in their prayers, but today our book of hours is unwritten and is made up of our daily routine of work and play. Many of us, like the people in this book, follow the prescribed eight hours of work with weekends off. We make our way through the hours of the day without expecting the routine to divert from its path, without really knowing such diversion is even possible. It is time that prevails as the longest distance between two places, whether it is 102 minutes or 99 images, or before and after 9/11; and the experience of time is always different than its measure.

About the Author:

George A. Walker (Canadian, b. 1960) is an award-winning wood engraver, book artist, teacher, author, and illustrator who has been creating artwork and books and publishing at his private press since 1984. Walker's popular courses in book arts and printmaking at the OCAD University in Toronto, where he is Associate Professor, have been running continuously since 1985. For over twenty years Walker has exhibited his wood engravings and limited edition books internationally, often in conjunction

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