Sunday, December 18, 2005

Gideon Defoe and Tim Burton

I have got into the habit, when in the library, of randomly picking up books by authors of whom I've not heard, as a way of finding new reading material. Yesterday I picked up film director Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and other stories, a small collection of brief verse stories illustrated by Burton. The book immediately reminded me of the work of American artist, Edward Gorey, of which my late friend Margo was a fan. There are 23 verse stories in the colllection all of which centre on a child with a surreal deformity, the eponymous 'Oyster Boy', 'Junk Girl', 'Robot Boy', 'The Boy with Nails in his Eyes', 'Stain Boy' and 'The Pin Cushion Queen' amongst them. The stories are quite disturbing, as befits the creator of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands and the recent Corpse Bride. Burton's premise is the fact that all children are outcasts in the adult world, and their ideas about what is important, frightening or odd, are often quite different to ours. This book is definitely not for the faint-hearted !

My other random pick yesterday was Gideon Defoe's The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists which Amazon have classed as historical fiction, but I would class with Jasper Fforde's 'Thursday Next' books as comic alternate history/fantasy. The book appears, initially, to be a children's or, at least, a teen's book, but it's been marketed to adults. It reads like a Monty Python episode at sea combined with an Enid Blyton story, and features lots of footnotes, some of which make serious points. Few of the characters, aside from Charles Darwin, have names; rather they are differentiated by their descriptions, thus the Priate Captain, the pirate with a scarf, the pirate with an accordion, etc. Apparently Defoe wrote the book to impress a girl, which didn't work, but he published it anyway. There is a sequel available as well: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Whaling.

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