Book Review: Scrawl by Caren, Claudia, and Todd Strauss-Schulson
By Aniza Jahangir
Based on an eccentric father’s love of a “collector’s mind,” which entails drawers filled with Allen Ginsberg’s beard shavings and memories of urging Dali for a drawing at the Chelsea hotel, Scrawl embarks on a mission to surpass the stagnance of history in a timeline. The Strauss-Schulsons defy all physical limitations, strapping its audience into a time a machine.
No longer a craft reserved for the borders of a middle schooler’s notebook or a mindless act on the telephone, doodles are the jocular links that give our present a more intimate understanding of our fecund past. Seeming to bear little resemblance, the siblings’ collection of their father’s collections connect unlikely historical figures through doodles: Marlon Brando, Winston Churchill, Jack Kerouac, and Renoir, amongst others.
Masters of the arts make up a large sum of the great minds included in Scrawl. American artist Edward Hopper’s depiction of “treeless country” under the sign off of his letter after vacationing with his wife. Stephen King’s styling of a headboard which reads “R.I.P”, captioned “dancing on my own grave.” Charlie Chaplin’s bright blue and uniquely cubist drawing of his iconic “the Tramp.” Great artists, writers, and performers are de-mystified through their distraitness.
Not limited to the artists of time, Scrawl’s focus encompasses the sciences too. One page depicts Christian Barnard and Denton Cooley drawing the difference between a real heart and an artificial one documenting the start of the first ever heart transplant. The reader stands witness to forty years of medical controversy.
A voyeuristic historian’s dreamscape, Scrawl interweaves the past with the present. Readers are invited to view momentous pieces of history at all of its points. The minds of the brilliant are captured in great detail, and the minute pieces of unvoiced history are glances at passions and joys that do not bend to the passage of time.