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The Sound of the World by Heart by Giacomo Bevilacqua

Published by Lion Forge on May 23, 2017

The Sound of the World by Heart is sort of a tribute to New York City as seen through the lens of chaos theory. The story is about making connections, or choosing not to make connections and thus to avoid pain, in a city that is famous for people who bump elbows but never notice each other. There’s magic in the city, in its art, its library, its streets, its people … and some of that magic (or maybe it's just randomness) underlies the story that Giacomo Bevilacqua tells.

Sam is a photographer. He counts numbers in his head because he doesn’t want to think. He listens to the same song over and over. His memories are like digital pictures. Memories that don’t turn out well, he deletes.

Sam is on a New York adventure, living for two months without speaking to another human being. He plans to write a photo essay about his adventure and to publish it in the magazine he co-founded. The other co-founder helped Sam devise this challenge as a way to get over the pain of a loss.

Sam has taken 400 photos and somehow the same girl has ended up in dozens of them. Who is she? How did that happen? Part of Sam’s challenge is that his habit of deleting memories is coming back to haunt him. Of course, getting answers isn’t easy when you aren’t allowed to ask questions out loud.

Many of the scenes show the mystery woman and Sam in the same area, often oblivious to each other’s presence. One point of the story, I think, is its illustration of the notion that we need to open our eyes, to look outside of ourselves, if we don’t want to miss the things that might truly be important.

Bevilacqua writes in a minimalist, poetic style, letting the pictures tell most of the story, as good graphic novels should. I like the way the art tells one story while the text tells another, both working to make the story whole. The technique allows the reader to see relationships that would not be evident by reading the text or looking at the art alone.

Sam’s musings articulate an appealing, if unfinished, philosophy of life, parts of which might usefully blend into the reader’s own unfinished philosophy of life. Some of the story is about finding a preferred rhythm of life, and perhaps finding a place, or a person, whose rhythm matches your own.

The element of magic I mentioned might be real or it might be in Sam’s head. Is Sam entirely sane? Maybe not. Is anybody? But some connections have their own kind of magic — even when we don’t see the connections, don’t know they exist — and I think that’s the point the story is making. The story doesn’t try to be deeply philosophical, and maybe it stretches a bit to make its points, maybe it even borders on being overly sentimental, but the story is narrated in a voice that feels true, and I have to give it credit for being so well done.

I love the art, particularly the cityscapes. They’re almost impressionistic but they capture the reality of the city.


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