So here’s what the first book looks like:
And also it looks like this: And sometimes it even looks like this: . Indeed, my friend.
This is a book about hamster like creatures arguing on a ball of crap. Sometimes one of them gets a swelling on his nose and it looks like the swelling on the nose you see above. The best part of this graphic story is the guest artist section in the back, because the artist found several of her friends and colleagues, including Penn Jillette, and had them do guest drawings of the ball of crap. It’s actually kind of charming. Or it would be:
If I could figure out what was going on in the story. Sometimes I get things like this. I am no artist, and I am at best an amateur storyteller. But I have read a decent number of books and generally can take a thing on its own terms and then move accordingly. But I couldn’t with this one.
The second book I could deal a little more directly with.
It’s called “The Ticking” and it looks like this:
And so the story slowly unravels from this point as dealing with the sometimes inborn difficulties and troubles of parenting. We have a child whose face is strangely constructed and troubling to look at. That face had wide-set eyes and lacks ears. There’s a charming grotesqueness about it all. I found the art, which differed quite a bit from the first book, to have some similarities to Edward Gorey. I will admit here that I don’t generally get the charm of Edward Gorey. I am not morbid and not whimsical so I am just not the audience. As this story progresses, the child and the parent have various miscues and misunderstandings. Like most stories about parenting the thing is not necessarily the thing. The face is grotesque but exaggerated and this is not a story about deformity and a cruel world; it’s not Wonder at all.
This kind of storybook reminds me a little too much of people I have known and met and interacted with who most definitely have talent. But that talent has a kind of creep to it. A lot of people have this kind of talent-creep….leading someone like Michael Jordan to want to play baseball….or Bruce Willis or Johnny Depp to play music….sure they can play guitar and might even be able to sing, but refusing to understand how structurally different those things are side by side and mistaking one for the other is a problem. David Bowie actually could act, but he was never going to be as good an actor as a musician. There’s an impulse found in some artists and illustrators to also be storytellers, as if they are intricately linked and not two separate skills you have to work at to make sense of. Plenty of amazing artists cannot tell stories and plenty of storytellers cannot illustrate their own works. And god help us when they try.