By Georgia Webber
It’s difficult to review something that you love. The constant worry is that your gushing and incessant use of the words “brilliance,” “genius,” and “orgasmic” will make the reader think that someone is paying you for your writing—and we can’t have people thinking that writers get paid. Especially not when they’re reviewing books released by fat-cat publishing houses with an anti-consumer agenda and the pocket book to pay for it. Please. Is there nothing sacred?
Well, actually, there is. It’s art. And not just art of any kind—it’s good art.*
That feeling you get when you see something that completely speaks to you, works that grab you by the heartstrings and say “you’re alive!”—priceless. And by priceless, I mean that it transcends our fictitious game of hot potato, passing around money like it would scald us if we kept it for too long, not that it shouldn’t be paid for; there’s a difference.
So good art is for each of us to define. Who can tell you which books grabbed your heartstrings and which tried to grope your bra straps but you? Why should you take my advice?
The answer is: you shouldn’t. But you could be nice about it and nod and smile while I tell you all about my favourite new book by my favourite new artist, okay?
Brecht Evens is a wunderkind. By whatever age he is now, he has published four books, two of them prizewinners, two of them translated into at least one other language. The Wrong Place (English translation, Drawn and Quarterly) was translated into FOUR languages. This guy is an international superstar! In the comics world, at least.
His latest English release, Night Animals (Top Shelf, 2011) is an utterly astounding, gorgeous, brilliant, genius, orgasmic… etc. It’s composed of two stories: one about a man going on a blind date that ends up taking him places he could never have anticipated, and the other about a girl who, to her dismay, goes through every stage of puberty in an instant in front of all her classmates in gym class. That night, she is visited by a flute-playing creature who kidnaps her, brings her to the forest, and from there the night takes an unexpected turn. Both stories are told without words of any kind, but speak volumes of Evens’ talent. While there is a bounty of scenery to get lost in, creatures to become acquainted with, and the emotional journey of the character to sympathize with, the tales suffer no time wasted on extraneous storytelling. The images are detailed, yet simple; gorgeously adorned, but easily understood; claustrophobic, frightening, downright creepy, yet beautiful, tranquil, and even whimsical at times.
As you may have noticed, I’m having a hard time pinning down a perfect description. That’s another mark of a brilliant book. If it’s got everything you love, just saying one or two of those things feels insignificant. But this book is significant! This book reminded me why art is important. (It gave me that metaphor with the heartstrings! And many more, I’m sure.) If something that you make can give another human being the sense of wonder and awe that you feel when you see or hear or experience something like good art, that is worth the time and effort and bankruptcy that comes with it. So help Brecht Evens make a living making us feel amazement, and buy the damned book.
*I’m definitely not trying to define “good art.” I continue in the next paragraph by describing the feeling you get when you see something you consider “good,” not when someone tells you something is good by any other standards.