Review: Time – edited by Sam Rawlings
Every so often a publisher unveils a grand project. Without sounding cynical, it seems that these projects are successful about half the time. Ideas overshoot, ideas fall short. With this in mind it is so relieving to see Lazy Gramophone’s anthology Time lives up to the high bar it sets for itself.
The idea behind the book is that there is one central story and every other story and poem in the collection links to it in some way. Tom Hirons’ central story, the frame upon which the rest of the anthology hangs is an inspired piece of fiction. Depicting the life of a rebel and revolutionary figure from childhood to death, The Scrimstone Circus Gospel, is an explosive start to the book. It’s so good in fact that the next couple of pieces feel like a stumble after such a powerful opening. Though, I’m happy to admit that it’s not the fault of the poets involved. Tom Hirons is a tough act to follow. The book picks up again with the next prose entry and from then on the energy remains consistent.
The idea of having thirty pieces of writing that each intertwine with the central story is a beautiful concept, and one that Sam Rawlings has orchestrated brilliantly. Throughout the book, often in delightfully subtle ways, you are reminded of the opening story and the characters within, even when the story running parallel feels like it exists in a different world altogether. A several points in the book I was reminded of the time-jumping narrative of Cloud Atlas, though arguably Time pushes it far further.
Of course, there are some writers that stand out above the rest (Inua Ellams, Jo Tedds and Jodie Daber to mention just a few), but the standard of the collection is generally very high and it has been curated in such a way as to give each author the space they deserve to be read in the best light.
Time’s design and illustration fall on two opposing sides. The design and typography of the book are impeccable. Each section opens with a cleverly constructed table of contents in the guise of a timeline or even an evolutionary tree. It is a thematic constant that keeps the book flowing in the same direction no matter where the stories end up. Sadly the illustrations let the book down somewhat. Rather the sheer volume of illustrators does. It’s a ‘too many cooks’ kind of situation. Each writer has been paired with a different illustrator and so each story has a wildly different illustrative style. The illustrators are individually very talented, but having so many makes the collection feel like a bit of a mish-mash. On top of that, some of the illustrations work well with the ink and paper chosen for the book and some are greatly hindered by it. If I were to (, my two cents being hypothetically worth something,) redo the book I would pick five illustrators for the whole book. It would give more consistency while still allowing for variation.
After all that, I hugely enjoyed diving into the world(s) created by the Time. Most books try to create a story within a world. Time has attempted, and succeeded in, crafting an entire world around a story. No small feat!