The Astronaut, a novel :
A Visual Exercise In Storytelling

How can we use abstract visuals as a narrative device?

The Astronaut is a 9 x 12 inch 80-page handbound hardcover book about a 20-something year old moving back to the suburbs after being in the city for four years. The narrative is in the form of a dialogue between the person from the city and an old friend he/she meets around the neighbourhood. The visuals are meant to simulate intonation, flow, and climax in the narrative.

While brainstorming ideas for a book, I started off with a feeling that's a little hard to describe. I remember watching 2001: A Space Oddyssey for the first time and staring in awe at Kubrick's use of colour, sound, and composition that is indespensable to the narrative. There's a scene in the film where Dr. Dave Bowman realizes he needs to shut down HAL 9000, the onboard computer. Instead of intensifying the scene with dramatic music and quick cuts, he forces Bowman to trudge through the aircraft so carefully and slowly—the audience following each step with such excrutiating slow progress. The only sound is your heavy breathing and something that sounds like an open faucet, almost like white noise. You're completely alone on this ship save for a computer whose disembodied voice penetrates your space suit, telling you to "stop, stop, desist." You're the only human for lightyears on a broken aircraft floating off course and careening deeper into space. I wanted to try my best at portraying the same feeling of watching this scene for the first time in my book, The Astronaut.

The narrative takes the form of a dialogue between The Astronaut, a male or female who had recently moved back to the suburbs after living in the city for four years, and an old friend who had moved on with her life and who has already started a family. They catch up, talking about what they've been up to since they've last seen each other. The Astronaut notes how the suburbs have seemingly stayed unchanging, while the old friend rebuts that just because there haven't been any drastic differences in four years, there have inherently been smaller and steadier changes that are just as important. It just takes time for them to become apparent.

Eventually, The Astronaut admits that he/she views not being able to make a career in the city as a great failure in his/her life. The old friend is a bit impatient with this view, deciding to leave The Astronaut to ponder by him/herself. Before she does, she suggests that just because it seemed The Astronaut didn't get anywhere in those four years, doesn't necessarily mean they haven't been fruitful. She tells The Astronaut to look up, the lights in the sky more visible in the suburbs than they were in the city. They part ways.

The imagery is meant to enhance the narrative, lending tone and rhythm to the conversation. On top of that, by creating more dreamy and ethereal imagery, it suggests that the words are quite literally floating in space—the words come out of nowhere, a chance encounter that is isolated for a moment, but soon dissipates back into space.

Book is 80 pages made into signatures, printed on Mohawk Superfine Smooth, (painfully and slowly) using a Canon Pixma Pro-100, then handbound and kettlestitched.

Images on the left from 2001: A Space Odyssey

© 2016 AT. See you space cowboy.

The Astronaut, a novel :
A Visual Exercise In Storytelling

Angelina Tjhung