Review by Paige K. Bradley
Could it be that the family that makes zines together stays together?
Perhaps we have one in the title-explains-it-all Bunny Boy Goes to Rome, the compelling sequel to The Brighton Bunny Boy (2010).
Our tale here rolls out along a somewhat classically Event A to Event B to Event C children’s book storyline: after being discovered in the girl’s suitcase on arrival in Rome where her family (the Soth clan) has taken a trip, they go out into the city to explore and take pictures, losing Bunny Boy somewhere in the Pantheon. Setting out with the new goal of finding him is a great plot to point for Alec to elaborate on with his talents, illustrating his daughter Carmen’s famous Roman locale peppered sentences with his precise, gorgeously composed photos of his son Gus in a bunny shirt. The overall look, the juxtaposition of Carmen’s scratchy ballpoint drawings and self-corrected misspellings with her father’s steady eye, is captivating. Here the Bunny Boy naps on an ancient hunk of stone column at the Colosseum, there he lounges around with the cats of Torre Argentina (great location scouting and “bunny wrangling” credit are surely due to the mother of our story’s stars, Rachel Soth). On my favorite page our boy hunches in a shaded foreground with his floppy, fuzzy costumed head turned away from the camera and towards a peacock described by the accompanying text as ‘The Magical Peacock’. Agreed!
As one of those artists who believes a life of tending to my work would make me incompatible for family or other nurturing roles, I can’t help but admire the flow and reciprocity here between the personal and professional, between Soth’s family and his art. Bunny Boy implicitly posits that family life can be an avenue for communal creativity, which compliments Soth’s artistic project of compiling a kind of American social aesthetic lexicon, reminiscent of what the Republican Party in 2008 dubbed the Real America, a rare populist point on which the Grand Old Party may have hit the nail.
More books made by families please, whether biological or chosen, and I don’t mean artist “collectives.” I’m tired of dispersed collectives and the ‘plays well with others’ ethic of collaboration. What I want to see in art and publishing are bonds, rooted relationships recorded and gifted, like a diary you write in to keep in touch with yourself unleashed on the public. When relationships break up or social communities crumble, becoming just another wear on the face of time, the things you made together, not the ones you bought together, will be around with or without an ISBN number. Bunny Boy Goes to Rome is as effective as any family album at preserving memories, especially of children, and more so than any souvenir of travel ever could be. Self-publish, be fruitful and multiply.
Carmen & Alec signing A Bunny Boy Goes to Rome
The Soth Family, Bunny Boy Goes to Rome, (Little Brown Mushroom, 2011)
Images: Cover and interior of Bunny Boy Goes to Rome.