Having never been to New York, I have only the trappings of pop culture’s sensationalized and often exaggerated viewpoint of the bustling city. From the heavenly skylines to the lowly sewer depths, every inch of the concrete jungle has been used ad infinitum. And yet The Sound of the World by Heart, a new graphic novel written and illustrated by Giacomo Bevilacqua, simply captivated me with its richly detailed vistas of not just the city’s landmarks, but of the citizens—and their stories—that dwell there.
With a sketched, vivid drawing style, the narrative follows the story of Sam Page, a young photojournalist taking up the challenge of living in Manhattan, the vibrant heart of New York, with one goal in mind: no verbal interaction with other human beings for two months. In the sprawling Big Apple, this would seem nigh-on impossible. Armed with written notes and communication-negating headphones, he gets to work.
It is not all roses and fluffy bunnies. We find that the primary reason Sam is there is in the city is to escape an old pain: that of a past relationship. Broken-hearted, he buries it, erasing the moments as he immerses himself in his singular passion of photography, trying to let the world see what he sees, feel what he feels in that fractional moment where time is frozen. And while the moment is gone as the world moves on, his imprint on the world is preserved forever as he builds his narrative for his experiment in isolation. His challenge rules, which border on misanthropy, enable him to be the outside observer, consistently unchanging as the city goes about its business.
That is, until New York throws him a curve ball.
On one fateful November day, after processing his photos, he finds something odd in a batch of black and white prints—a single person in color in all of them. And not just some random person. It was the same redheaded girl in every photo. This both intrigues and alarms Sam. Is someone at the print shop messing with him, or is there some greater mystery to this?
In Sam’s quest to pursue the answers all without breaking his self-imposed communication rules, he finds an almost supernatural flow to the city, with chance encounters steering him into new and untested directions, revealing secrets about the city that have always been before him. After years of peering at the world through the lens, Sam is opening his eyes for the first time in his journey to find himself—and maybe even a soulmate—in this bustling, crowded city.
This was a pleasant shift in pace that leaned on the visuals to move the story along. Philosophical musings about the people of New York, the lifeblood that keeps the city alive, are a constant in the narrator’s words. The story does switch viewpoints, from Sam to his editor and others, but the different voices can be easily discerned by tone and context. Within this narrative, it is Sam’s interest in the interconnectedness of the city and its people, even when they don’t realize, it that forms the premise of the plot. While I do agree that chance encounters surely could not affect the overall grand scheme of the universe, they do leave their impression in small ways that ultimately build up to something splendidly serendipitous that one can only describe as magical.
I also appreciate the disability representation written into The Sound of the World by Heart. This wonderful story provides a deep self-reflection for the reader in understanding the complexities of social nuances that keep the world spinning, keep us waking up every day to face the world with purpose, and finding the heart and the joy in the things we love.
The Sound of the World by Heart was originally published in Italian in late 2016. It was published in English through Magnetic Press (Lion Forge) in spring 2017 and is now available on Amazon and elsewhere. You can follow both Giacomo Bevilacqua (@keison22) and Lion Forge (@lionforge) on Twitter or check out magnetic-press.com.