I had flown in from Perth to attend The 2011 Melbourne Writers Festival. I wasn’t on the programme that particular year, and, truth be told, was not sure why I’d come. I spoke the previous year on being a professional writer; now here I was being a professional slacker instead.
They had invited graphic novelists to work in The Atrium at Federation Square as part of the festival’s Don’t Feed the Artists installation, a high-definition camera set up to chart their every sketch, projected up onto a huge screen. Having spent the day watching worlds created with my friend Andy, the two of us reclined in matching beach chairs, I ventured across to the bookstore. I perused the shelf looking for something special…something different.
Mirranda Burton’s Hiddenis that book. It’s a graphic memoir about her time as an art teacher for the intellectually disabled. Her writing is tight, the artwork simple, yet captivating, and through it all, Burton celebrates what reviewer Adam Ford described as “the unique and universal in everyday life”.
The humanity, compassion and love radiates from every panel of Burton’s work. As a piece of art, it’s both beautiful and inspiring. I’m convinced Hidden could keep you warm on a cold night, cheer you up when feeling sad, and give you hope when all is hopeless.
I wish I’d gone to the Hidden launch at MWF 2011, but me being me, I missed the boat. As it was, she made my festival. Mirranda never set foot into my world and yet it feels like she was there, seeing what I saw, taking it all in alongside me. Together but alone, we thought about what it means to love, be loved, and stay human.
If I ever meet her, I’ll give her a big hug, unless she’s not a hugger, in which case I’ll just say, “Hey, I’m Laurie, it’s great to finally meet you,” and politely shake her hand.
I love this book more than muffins, cakes and most types of biscuits. Read it and you will too.
Laurie Steed is a writer, reviewer, editor, and freelance journalist. His writing has been published in The Age, Meanjin, Westerly, the Sleepers Almanac, and The Big Issue. He lives in Perth, Western Australia. You can read an interview with Laurie here, or check out his website for more information.
Your turn: Have you come across Mirranda Burton’s work? It is new to me, and the graphic novel is not a form I’m normally attracted to, but this definitely looks appealing to me. What about you?