Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The Ticking & Micrographica by Renee French
After hearing nonstop about this book for many months I finally picked it up, submitting to the seductive cloth cover with its pretty gilding and its little box-headed boy. I’m glad Top Shelf decided to take the sexy D&Q cover route. Not only is it pretty, I think it really goes with the timelessness of the story inside.
Some people mark the opening words of the book, “Edison Steelhead was born on the kitchen floor. His mother did not survive him,” to be chilling and set the tone of French’s graphic novel. I find the next lines to be even more striking:
“You have my face. So we’ll go away. Where nobody can see it.” Yes, what’s more horrible than being motherless is having a father that is so ashamed of himself that he is ashamed of you. And that shame is what prohibits Edison, a boy with usual features and a big mind from being supported by his father Calvin.
Like French’s The Soap Lady, this pencily-gray book could be read as a children’s tale about being different, growing up and finding one’s own way. And it works very well on that level—I think children would be charmed by Edison and the various disguises required by his father (the monkey head is especially cute) and lulled by the fairytale quality of some of the book’s elements, such as the Steelhead’s private island full of secrets for Edison to uncover and document.
As an adult, I could really take the time to both enjoy the art and read the story as a testament to people’s ability to transcend their circumstances. Edison knows that it is sad that his father couldn’t allow himself to enjoy Edison on Edison’s terms, but he doesn’t let that stop him from becoming an illustrator and living in the city. The note of hope is such a pleasant aspect—something I am looking for right now.
My favorite touch is Edison’s drawings of the things he finds. They gain in mastery as he grows up and show up again on a heartbreaking page near the end. I love the weird little diagrams that are so like real children’s drawings and somehow so unlike them.
The perfect balance of all the elements—sweetness, creepiness, melancholy and hope—make this book really special. Buy it for someone weird today!
This fun, tiny book, also by Top Shelf, was a drawing exercise originally done on French’s website. She made each of the drawings originally 1” x 1” and blown up for the book, the clarity of the elements is really remarkable. The story involves squirrel-like creatures and a ball of poop. What more could you ask for?
Sadly, I lost my copy at a blah restaurant in the Meatpacking District at the end of a very long walk. I hope the busboys enjoyed it.