Book Review: Alice and Antius
Reviewed by Alexandra Barbush
An artful narrative poem that superimposes godly relics of ancient time and Greek myth over the ever-increasing realness of the climate disaster
Alice and Antius, written by Kit Ingram and illustrated by Brianna Tosswill, is a poignant piece of art, beautifully staged. Ingram and Tosswill showcase the reality of our current climate crisis with mythological language, ethos, and characters from Ancient Greece. Ingram’s foreword and notes on the text help make the book accessible for readers unaware of the book’s backdrop & situation.
Interlaced with common language, Greek words, and mythological references, Ingram tells the sad story of Alice and Antius: two lovers, presumed as male and female and described as mother and father (and illustrated as such).
These lovers wake and immediately discuss their everyday life, banana french toast at a favorite restaurant. Assumed to be mythological, if not god/goddess, Alice and Antius are illustrated almost as nymphs and we carry that assumption throughout the narrative, that they are, in the very least, not merely human, although they are very much predisposed to the same issues that plague mortals, and us, today.
Almost immediately the effects of climate change & catastrophe are apparent and affect the protagonists. They bemoan the erosion of their land, ponder changes that could or would be made to save them, along with their fellow gods, goddesses, and mortals. Among the narrative lyrics are illustrated splices of newspaper headlines that point to real world, current issues of climate disaster: the rapidly melting ice that has so altered walruses’ habitat, oil spills, and environmental protesters.
The nymph-like beings continue their journey, looking for more hospitable lands and along the way live to the best of their ability, like we all do. They have a family and worry about their children’s future in a decaying world, the same way we do. They index and ration their supplies, taking heed of how long they can continue in an increasingly hostile natural world. Their bleak ending, along with the world’s, is the ultimate message of heartbreak and desolation—what Ingram says is before us, in the ever-increasing threat of climate disaster.
Ingram and Toswill’s illustrated narrative poem is beautifully and whimsically created. Toswill’s illustrations are so complementary to the text that I’d argue they’re necessary to understand the narrative completely. A work of art, in and of itself.
Ingram’s text is somewhat split between plain language, fantastical prose, and Greek references. Readers should either be familiar with Greek myth, language, and culture, or be willing to reference the material via Google searches (or a dictionary) to fully understand the story.
Even with a reference nearby, the exact nature of these two beings we follow remains somewhat unclear—are they god and goddess? A search for their names would suggest not, at least according to classic myth. They seem unduly connected to the earth and nature, so perhaps they are nymphs or demigods? What is clear is the main point of Ingram’s story—that regardless of who or what these protagonists and their children represent, they (and we) can only befall one fate—death, destruction, and pain as the natural earth beneath us crumbles to human action and inaction.
I’d recommend Alice and Antius to anyone who enjoys poetry, effectual illustration, or has an interest in the climate crisis. The poem is beautifully performed and while an interest in Greek myth is helpful, it isn’t all together necessary to understand the main points.
Human or myth, we’re all dying as our earth dies. Ingram’s point is bleak, and his narrative follows a similar tone of initial love, hopefulness, and creative truth, only to fall to our real world actions and consequences.
An artful blending of storytelling and painful facts, Alice and Antius is a heartfelt take on our current situation with all the imagery and poetic license of our best canonical works of poetry.
Print Length: 68 pages
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