Tim Ginger (2015) Julian Hanshaw (Top Shelf Publications)
Trade paperback, 150 pages
From the moment I saw it solicited in Previews months ago, I knew I wanted to read Tim Ginger. I wasn’t familiar with the title or the creator Julian Hanshaw, but something about the cover connected with me. Maybe it was the guy with the eye patch, floating over the desert landscape. Maybe it was the rotary telephone resting on a tall table, its shadow casting on a blue trailer home that looked like it had been parked there since the Great War. Whatever it was that made me pick it up, it was one of my best reading decisions of the year.
Tim Ginger begins with what appears to be an out-of-place quote from Dolly Parton: “I never really had the desire to have children. My husband didn’t want them either, so it worked out well.” That quote is followed by a brief definition of the game cricket. Both are significant.
Tim Ginger is a former government test pilot living a quiet life of retirement in New Mexico. His wife Susan has been dead for several years. Long ago, Tim and Susan chose not to have children, so he has no attachments and sees very few people until he attends a book convention called Read On to promote his new book. While signing his book, Tim meets a conspiracy theory nut who constantly hounds him and a woman he hasn’t seen in years, Anna, who is also promoting her new book (a graphic novel).
At this point, you might think you can guess what happens next, but Hanshaw isn’t interested in exploring anything predictable or trite. Tim Ginger is filled with many quietly reflective scenes, little moments that explore emotions that aren’t raging, but rather unspoken and softly encased in a protective shell. Tim has had an entire lifetime to think about his past, which he does in brief snapshots, allowing the reader to live parts of his life with him, thinking his thoughts, quietly meditating on his existence and our own.
Maybe the aspect of the book that connects with me most is that of Tim’s being childless. As mentioned earlier, this was a conscious decision Tim and Susan made as a young couple, a decision carrying emotional consequences, as it does for any couple making the same decision. Without getting too personal, my wife and I are also childless, and while my wife (unlike Tim’s) is still alive, the years are passing and many of the decisions I made in my youth are there for me to examine, rethink, dwell upon, and perhaps regret. Sometimes there are no words to express those feelings and Hanshaw understands that. Hanshaw’s limited colors and mostly thin line drawings also convey the tone of the book beautifully.
Reading Tim Ginger reminds me of watching the Wim Wenders film Paris, Texas. Both are set (primarily) in the desert, both explore loneliness, regret, determination and courage in a quiet, understated way. Both are powerful in ways that you might find difficult to explain to someone else. It’s like trying to tell someone about surviving a car crash if they’ve never experienced anything beyond a fender-bender. Tim Ginger contains moments that resonate with me, moments that make me feel as if maybe I’m not the only person in the universe that has experienced this life in this way. When you encounter such a person – or such a book – few words are needed. Somehow, you just know that someone else knows.
(Images: Forbidden Planet)