Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Eric by Shaun Tan

I strongly and truly believe that some people are magic.

Among these people I count the following authors:
  • Charles de Lint
  • Midori Snyder
  • Holly Black
  • Shaun Tan
I received the very small, very slender, new offering from Shaun Tan by Templar Publishing on Saturday morning. And when I small and slender, I mean it. But I've long ago learned that very small and very slender does not mean "can't carry a punch" because it can.

The magic and the essence is distilled, all the superfluous stuff is stripped away and you hold in your hands something of rare and tremendous beauty.

You may know Shaun Tan from some of his other works, most notably his picture book The Arrival or even Tales of Outer Suburbia. These are books of depth and grace and beauty and tremendous character.

In Eric we have a tiny self-contained story about a foreign exchange student who comes to live with a typical suburban family. Although everyone is delighted with the arrangement, cultural misunderstandings ensue, beginning with Eric's insistence on sleeping in a pantry cupboard rather than the guest room.

The story on the surface is a simple one; an exchange student comes to stay and he's a bit odd, but everyone is understanding and the narrator of our story is keen to make friends with Eric. But Eric remains an enigma. Through a sequence of haunting pictures we are shown his diminutive size and the scope of his questions.

When he unexpectedly leaves the family he's staying with, he leaves behind a small group of people touched by his presence. And it's only when they see what he left behind in the pantry cupboard, that they realise that someone a little bit magic stayed in their home.

Wonderful and beautiful, Eric is a true book lover's dream book to own. Tactile and sweet, the story has many layers and is just that little bit magic. I think I may carry it with me for a little while.

Note: this review is probably ten times as long as the book.

A further note: the artwork is from Shaun Tan's website and I use it on MFB to illustrate the haunting magical quality of the artwork within Eric. Eric will make a truly wonderful random present to someone who likes quirky and sweet little books with a big heart.

1 comment:

Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf said...

Oh, dear god. I love Shaun Tan's work.

Really need to get hold of a copy of this one!