Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People

Douglas Coupland must have an insatiable following.

I was thrilled by the concept of an illustrated children's book for adults, with absurdly adult content. I'm still a fan of Coupland's other work; I loved Generation X and Generation A, and I can get on board with Coupland's theories on Marshall MacLuhan.

However, the odd thing about this book was that I had expected to laugh. I expected hilarity. Instead, I felt that the tales were a bit depressing. I'll admit that I'm one for dark humour, even at the most inappropriate occasions, but somehow, the drop-off endings of these morose tales were both unfinished, and unsettling.

I think the review in The Walrus by Emily Landau summarized my concerns best:
"The trouble with these fractured fairy tales, winking allusions, and clever parodies is that the reader can never fully surrender to the child's sphere of earnestness and escape"
Perhaps the reason for this uncertainty was that the book wasn't wholly in the realm of adult or child. If it were more "adult," it lacked some explicit social criticism, it merely presented ideas and abandoned them. If it were more "child," I feel the tales would have allowed for greater absorption into the realm of fantasy.

The premises of the stories were enjoyablethe inappropriate babysitter asking her charges to shoplift, the evil juice box attacking other juice boxes, the living army action figure that tortures his owner/captor, the past-her-prime Barbie ("Cindy" doll) taking revenge on an unpopular girl, and the zombie supply teacher who decides to eat one of his students based on the students' essaysbut nothing was achieved in any tale. There is no conclusion, no cliffhanger, no moral (or amoral) lesson. Simply a snapshot into a horrible, fictional moment, leaving one to conclude that their plots are hopeless, empty, and bound for nothing but continual perpetuation.

Yet the title did not mislead. In fact, it delivered exactly what was promised: these are children's-style tales, which are inappropriate for young people. Yet these tales don't quite make it to their adulthood either. There is no promise of a concluding message or sense of closure. One might presume that's how Coupland thought it should be.

No comments:

Post a Comment