THE ELEPHANT MAN by Michael & Peter Ford Howell
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A picturization, from Britain, of the story of ""Elephant Man"" Joseph Merrick might seem a queasy prospect--but co-authors Howell and Ford have made an intelligent and affecting adaptation of their superb adult work on the subject (The True History of the Elephant Man, 1980). And the flavorful, characterful watercolors that fill the pages of this horizontal album also skirt both horror and pathos. The story begins with Merrick's debut as a freakshow attraction; has him look around ""with keen interest,"" haltingly ask to be called ""Joseph--please,"" and go to sleep with his heavy head on his knees. Performing in London's East End, he attracts the interest of London Hospital's distinguished anatomist, Frederick Treves--who tells him his affliction is ""some sort of rare disease,"" and has ""nothing to do with his mother being frightened by an elephant."" On the Continent, he's bewildered, harried, robbed. Then, returning to London frightened and ill (""Somebody laughed in his ear, 'It's trying to speak'""), he manages to pull out Frederick Treves' card. A way will be found for him to live at London Hospital in dignity; he'll have illustrious visitors and loyal friends, and die with the Princess of Wales' portrait alongside his mother's. Only the last paragraph needlessly points the moral (""Joseph Merrick had shown how the real person. . . was more important than the outward appearance. . . ."") Straightforward and sensitive.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1984
Publisher: Allison & Busby--dist. by Schocken