Friday, October 30, 2009

Tales of Woodsman Pete: With Full Particulars by Lilli Carré

I love Lilli Carré. Before I read Tales I had only seen short work by her and had been entranced by her loopy line work and slightly sad narratives.

Tales provides not only the feel I associate with Carré’s work, but also a deeper look at one character, the jauntily bearded Woodsman Pete, though episodes packed with whistling birds, monologues on companionship and taxidermied animals. Folk heroes Paul Bunyan and Babe also make an extended appearance, perhaps as an example of the kind of relationship Pete could enjoy, if he didn’t seem to want solitude so much.

One of Bunyan stories leads to a tale of lands covered in salt, where the inhabitants use the mountains of white stuff to preserve the things they think are worth it. The trouble is the mountains shift and people begin to lose the things they hoped to retrieve, and instead reach into the salt with only the barest hope to find them, eventually doing a kind of cultural penance for what becomes purposeful loss. Amazing.

I like that Pete, with his skinny legs and giant beard, is not all twinkling eyes and eccentricity. When confronted by other living things, he is dangerous, and all the “holes” in his tales take on an unsettling cast.

Carré uses a few different styles in this book, but the most prevalent (and my favorite) is her usual expressive thin lines with minimal shading. This is not to say that when she juices up pages with inkiness that it doesn’t look good too. Pete’s small details change from episode to episode, but it works as the tone of the stories shift a bit too.

For seven dollars, this book packs quite a bit of fun that you can return to from time to time--especially if you are feeling lonely. Or maybe a little vengeful...

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