A City Inside

Posted on September 29th, 2016

cityinsideA City Inside
by Tillie Walden

Avery Hill Publishing [available online]
B&W / £7.50
Released 2016

Review by Tom Mortimer

Tillie Walden’s A City Inside is a well crafted follow up to her successful I Love This Part [reviewed here]. A City Inside explores the journey of living, and the resultant formation of our personal inner realm. If that sentence alone spaces you out, hang in there. Much like the character of the book, this is a guided journey.

If you’re looking for points of comparison to allow some entry into what this work might be like, there’s certainly a Little Nemo aspect to it and perhaps some of the depth of Chris Ware. It’s a very ‘indie’ comic, and I say that to give you a sense of the flavours and possible influences. However this is far from me being reductionist, as Walden’s work carries something genuine that goes beyond an adopted fashionable style of visuals.

Walden has an incredible ability to gaze with a rich, poetic vision into the core of being a human in our current world, and then to exquisitely render it on the page. It therefore comes as absolutely no surprise that she has recently been nominated for an Eisner award. Her skills at observation and introspection are key to this book, because it leaves open questions for the reader, challenging us to explore emotive territory. This approach balances the book between one of investment and reward.

For all its focus on memories, A City Inside gravitates much more toward the nature of progression over time than it does nostalgia. We’re taken through the life of a woman, in response to her surroundings, her sensations, her love for her partner. Reflections of a shifting mentality.

Walden’s supporting cast are an array of fabrics, landscapes, forms and shapes – all drawn in a stripped back caricature of realism – which work together to construct a strange and meditative realisation of the inner workings of the mind.

I didn’t really touch on the homosexuality aspect of the relationship in my review of I Love This Part, and I’m not sure I need to here, either. I’m wary of taking the book away from what it is in efforts to make it a representative for a larger political struggle, while at the same time there is a fair bit here being achieved. If anything, I think it’s clearly important in so far as the emotional relevance to the author and her personal viewpoint, but there’s also an honesty and out pouring of the heart here that makes her work so beautifully warm and relatable – the love and experiences on show are quite extensively universal. Perhaps this is even more true than it may be in a heterosexual relationship, as the absence of certain weighted gender assumptions and attachments allow the main character and her partner to be levelled far more equally. Certainly, there are a lot of people for whom this publication will mean a lot.

Ultimately, Tillie Walden delivers another book that helps encapsulate and reconnect with the internal world as it maps out our lives. Alternatively, if that is a place you already heavily dwell, you may appreciate the company.