A “leedle bean” wrestles with existential angst in this absurdist picture book for adults.
Presumably pseudonymous Gookenschleim’s parody of classic moral fables such as Jonathan Livingston Seagull and The Little Prince mixes scrawled, hand-lettered captions and scribbles of cartoon gravestones and thick Greek chest hair, computer-generated illustrations and stock photos of spinning universes to playfully carry a story that dials down quickly from earthlings’ first attempts to understand the nature of infinity to a wise storyteller’s tale of a single pinto bean, Beanitrio, living alone in a hut on planet Refry. Spurred to contemplate “why” by a picture book of galaxies and atoms, Beanitrio’s emotions range wildly: He feels uniquely special in the universe, infinitesimal and meaningless, fearful about the possible existence of burrito monsters, profoundly alone and, finally, comfortable with his place in the universe’s music. The imaginative absurdity and self-aware ludicrousness in the book—combined with frequent tips of the hat to pop philosophers like Carl Sagan—is often clever enough to produce a smirk in sophisticated readers. But jokes often fall flat; the text feels a little too obsessed with its own weirdness, and most of the humor relies either on breaking the fourth wall or on cheap bits like fart jokes and the cute bean saying “***k you” to trees and rocks. Often, the inconsistency of the line drawings feels more haphazard than whimsical. Sometimes the things that work well in the piece become repetitive; both the important points and humor would have shone more brightly in a sparser format.
A few sparkling moments of parody of the self-awareness genre, buried within academic cleverness.