Al Davison

Active Images/Astral Gypsy Press
$12.95 (US) / $21.00 (Canada)

Readers of my (sorta) weekly column, "Write Club," know that I fought a nasty battle with cancer. Although I ultimately won my fight, the emotional and physical scars of my disease still rear their ugly heads from time to time.

However, my fight seems trivial compared to Al Davison's. Davison was born with Spina Bifida, a paralyzing condition that can also result in brain damage. Doctors told Davison's parents that their boy was a hopeless case and would probably die.

THE SPIRAL CAGE is the story of Davison's triumph over both his disease and the preconceptions of others. Something more than just an autobiography, THE SPIRAL CAGE explores universal themes to which anyone can relate.

As Davison writes: "Funny things autobiographies… You start out to record events in your life, and the process becomes an event in itself - capable of transforming your perceptions of those previous events and even your life itself."

It's not surprising that a work like THE SPIRAL CAGE would become a milestone in Davison's life. You and I may not have Spina Bifida, but we've all dealt with issues of childhood, religion, acceptance - and Davison's unflinching stare at these common experiences is a revelation.

THE SPIRAL CAGE is a dense book, and not always easy to read. Told in a non-linear fashion, Davison's story requires your full attention. However, it's so compelling, so touching, you can't help being pulled along by the narrative. Davison's mastery of various illustrative styles heightens the experience, and the black-and-white art is both starkly real and whimsically fantastic.

I dare you not to fall in love with the depiction of Davison as a child - his indomitable spirit is infectious and inspiring. "One day I wuz sitting reading my favouritist book. The 'Velveteen Rabbit,'" says the young Davison. "I wuz reading about the time the Velveteen Rabbit met two real rabbits who chalinjed him to jump up and down, but he cudnt coz didn't have propa legs (like me)."

Sure, THE SPIRAL CAGE is an examination of the differences that set Davison apart from "normal" people. But more than that, it's an exploration of the dreams and hopes that we all share - an inspirational masterpiece that demands a place on anyone's bookshelf.

Reviewer: Doug Giffin

Doug Giffin is the creator/writer of Harlow's End: Elijah's Tale (as previously seen in Digital Webbing Presents #3). To see more of Doug's work, visit his website at

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