Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

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[books] The Lost Thing and The Arrival

I met Australian artist Shaun Tan at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, where he was part of the ongoing Australian rumble. He's an elegant slip of a man who looks like he could fold himself into an origami crane and fly away. He's also stunningly pleasant — this I say after meeting him in the delightful company of Garth Nix, Cat Sparks and so forth.

I was impressed with Shaun, I was impressed with what I saw of his art, so on returning home I purchased two books by this World Fantasy Award winning artist: The Arrival Powell's | Amazon ] and The Lost Thing Powell's | Amazon ].

A few days ago the_child and I read The Arrival together. Tonight we read The Lost Thing. Color me even more deeply impressed than my already positive take on the man and his work.

The Lost Thing is an elegant, poignant story, the plot of which would fit on the back of a playing card. Like many illustrated works, the plot is barely the point. Tan's hauntingly strange artwork carries the piece. He has an eye for alienation, for the strange, for schools of art and artistic influence which I can glimpse even through the veils of my own insufficient education on the topic. In some ways I was reminded of the visual design of Terry Gilliam's Brazil imdb ], with the emphasis on inhumanly scaled architecture, random dysfunctionality, and ductwork.

Sweet and sad as The Lost Thing is, that is merely an overture to Tan's masterful The Arrival. This story is entirely nonverbal, 128 pages of glorious imagery telling the story of an immigrant's journey from his home to his new land, and what he does to eventually bring his family. The purely visual dimensions of the story perfectly serve the sense of disconnection experienced by a linguistically and culturally isolated immigrant. I know it struck a chord with the_child — even though she remembers nothing but life in the United States, she's very conscious of being from China. Tan's visualizations are deeply impressive, the sense of scale and strangeness on display in The Lost Thing having matured into a deeply layered texturing.

I can't recommend these books, and the work of Shaun Tan, highly enough. the_child was impressed enough to ask me to help her with a fan letter. Check them out.
Tags: art, books, klog, reviews

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