Isabel Rucker’s long, long memoir

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Tonight the SOMArts Center in San Francisco holds an opening for two artists, including Isabel Rucker, whose very long memoir will be on display. How long, exactly? ‘The Unfurling’ is more than 400 feet long, written and illustrated in graphic novel form on a 12-inch-high scroll. That’s Rucker above, just after finishing the installation this week.

Rucker, who is the daughter of science fiction author and cyberpunk visionary Rudy Rucker, began work on ‘The Unfurling’ seven years ago when she lived in San Francisco. It details both her city life and her move to rural Wyoming, off the grid. Using the scroll -- technically, three separate 150-foot rolls of paper -- allowed her to vary the width of the panels. While some are compressed, others are quite broad. The illustration of a road trip from California to Wyoming is more than 10 feet long.


‘Initially I didn’t have Jack Kerouac in mind, but after starting it, I did.’ Rucker told Jacket Copy via e-mail. ‘I love ‘On the Road’ and any other writing by him. A couple of years ago I had the joy of seeing the ‘On the Road’ scroll in person at the NYC library. It was amazing. I like to think there is a somewhat stream of consciousness similarity. I didn’t have an outline for the story.’

What could be the future for a graphic memoir that’s 400 feet long? While ‘On the Road’ was broken up into pages and published in book form, the design of the ‘The Unfurling,’ with its extra-wide panels, seems to resist that. Could a project like this be published as a scroll, sold in bookshelf-friendly tubes?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos, from top: Isabel Rucker with the installation of ‘The Unfurling’; an excerpt. Credits: Isabel Rucker