The Fate of the Artist by Eddie Campbell is a pseudo-autobiography in which Eddie Campbell has vanished without a trace. Through family members, found items, and stories of other artists, a private investigator tries to uncover Campbell’s fate. A fantastic journey unravels as a result, revealing the organized chaos of an artist’s life.
Eddie Campbell masterfully offers a complex meditation on balancing the lonely life of the artist with the demands of everyday life. He explores the struggle of producing art, the trouble of balancing a solitary pursuit with family life, and the lonesomeness of it all.
Campbell endearingly relates, not just the details of his own life, but the life of other artists – composers, writers, and sculptors. He creates a roster of artists whose lives intersect, unwind, and are retold through various mediums. Each story has the possibility of opening up into another.
The Fate of the Artist offers a story that is quick to read and yet infinitely complex. Campbell offers plenty of material for contemplation and plenty of images to please a variety of tastes. The varied styles of each section add to the charm of Campbell’s work. The Fate of the Artist mixes media, form, and types of storytelling in a seemingly disconnected and yet warmly coherent way. Each section is typographically and stylistically distinct, relating false trails, family and daily life reenactments, and even imaginary comic strips from torn newspapers. Narrative threads intersect and collide in surprising ways with each unique section of the novel.
The Fate of the Artist displays a surprising amount of depth and thought. Its intimate preview of Campbell’s life, from small spousal quarrels to quirky habits at home, fosters a sense of camaraderie and understanding. Through such confidences, a life of an artist is drawn that is both unique to one and yet understandable to many. Because the protagonist of the novel is the one missing character in a sea of so many others, it becomes possible for other artists to insert their own story into this book. Artists can catch a glimpse their life in Campbell’s missing presence and Campbell’s questionable fate can be viewed as a fateful possibility of their own.
And what is the fate of the artist? The book does not offer a solid resolution, yet it holds many possibilities. It seems to end without an ending, presenting a final twist that flows with the style of Campbell’s novel: an orderly chaos that only an artist can understand. The Fate of the Artist is a worthwhile read. It is so unique in its construction and so sympathetic in its telling that it is an especially relevant read for graphic novel fans and artists.