For characters who must pursue their own destinies, love is as boundless as the sea.

READ REVIEW

GOOD-BYE, CHUNKY RICE

Though the title and the deceptively simple character drawings suggest a kids’ comic, rarely are graphic novels aimed at adults as sweetly affecting as this.

Chunky Rice is a very cute turtle. Dandel, his girlfriend, is an equally adorable mouse deer (as identified by the book, though she appears more rodent-sized than cervine). Chunky must explore the world by water, for that is his nature. As he says, “My home is on my back.” Dandel must remain on land, for that is her nature. Before his bittersweet but inevitable departure, the two construct an entire world of sand castles, and he proceeds to tell her a bedtime story, the tale of the doomed lovers of Greek mythology, Orpheus and Eurydice (or, as rendered by graphic-artist Thompson, “Or-fee-us” and “Yourid-uhsee”). It’s unclear whether what follows the bedtime story is dream or reality, but Chunky seems to emulate the example of another mythological hero, Odysseus, as he makes his way to what looks to be an ocean-bound tugboat with a grizzled, mercenary captain. Chunky has brought all his prized possessions, including his collection of Motown records, but the country-and-western–loving captain tells him he must travel light for a life on the sea. His shipmates include female Siamese twins, whose different sizes and sleeping patterns complicate their attachment. As Chunky sails the ocean and Dandel drops love letters into bottles carried by the waves, not much happens to propel the narrative. Yet the artistic range displayed within the black-and-white drawings, as Thompson evokes the turbulence and majesty of the sea, shows a more sophisticated command of technique than he employs with his characters (who are almost Peanuts-like). Originally published in 1999, this reprint represents the debut of another promising artist within the Pantheon stable.

For characters who must pursue their own destinies, love is as boundless as the sea.

Pub Date: May 9, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-71476-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

THE CANTERBURY TALES

A RETELLING

Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL

Cartoonist Collins’ debut graphic novel is a long, smooth fable of a man whose unkempt facial hair ravages the tidy city of Here.

Here sits on an island, surrounded by the sea, separated from the far-off land of There. And whereas Here is all row houses and trimmed trees and clean cheeks, There is a dark, disordered place that would mix your insides with your outsides, your befores with your nows with your nexts—unpleasant business brilliantly depicted in panels breaking across a single body as it succumbs to chaos. So the people of Here live quiet, fastidious lives, their backs to the sea, and neighbor Dave delights in doodling it all from his window as he listens to the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” on repeat. But an irregular report at his inscrutable office job triggers the single hair that has always curved from Dave’s upper lip to be suddenly joined by a burst of follicles. Try as Dave might, his unruly beard won’t stop pouring from his face in a tangled flood—and soon it threatens the very fabric of life in Here. Collins’ illustrations are lush, rounded affairs with voluptuous shading across oblong planes. Expressions pop, from the severe upturn where a sympathetic psychiatrist’s brows meet to the befuddlement of a schoolgirl as the beard’s hypnotic powers take hold. With its archetypical conflict and deliberate dissection of language, the story seems aimed at delivering a moral, but the tale ultimately throws its aesthetics into abstraction rather than didacticism. The result rings a little hollow but goes down smooth.

Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-05039-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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