January was a mixed basket when it came to books. This post is a short chronicle of my disappointments. Not that I want to be all negative here, or that I enjoy thrashing books (they were not so bad!), but these books were not what I expected. I was caught off guard, but not in a good way.
The first surprise came with a very, very beautiful picture book for kids. The art is pure bliss. I had noticed it already in December at a bookshop. You can’t miss this book in any library because it is huge, so huge in fact that most libraries have trouble storing it on normal bookshelves. I was transfixed by the dreamy pictures of animals and people inspired by Nordic myths or by Philip Pullman Northern Lights. But the story itself was so disappointing: disjointed, seemingly incomplete, only a few lines or sentences opposite these huge pictures. I reread several times the first pages because I thought there was some missing pages. It seems like a hollow draft of a beautiful tale that needs to be fleshed out. It’s all the more surprising that the basic plot was quite promising: in a faraway, frozen kingdom, a whole generation of children born the same year as the king’s heir get abducted one by one without anyone learning about their fate. I can’t figure out how a publishing house has let this text go to print just like that. It looks to me as if the story was just written as an afterthought to the paintings. Nevertheless, the artist is François Roca, and his art needs to be seen.
The second surprise came from Bastien Vivès, a graphic author that I had discovered with Polina, his prize-winning bestseller. Polina is about a Russian classic dancer. It was romantic and heart-breaking. I then read A Taste of Chlorine, and I loved, loved, loved the pages full of solid blue, not much dialogue, and still a lot of emotions underneath (the pun is quite easy for a book set inside a swimming pool). I had concluded that Bastien Vivès was a French romantic.
But I was obviously mistaken, because I met with another side of him, a more cynical, dark-humored side. The little books (in manga size) that he published on “Love”, “Family”, the “Blogosphère” (the blogworld) (there are others on war, video games, etc.) were comics that he may have shown on his blog. Let’s just say it’s not my kind of humor. At first, I smiled. He nails very accurately hipsters, egocentric men, marriage crisis, the dating game, parents overwhelmed by their teens, etc.). But what is fun in small quantity is just too much in a book that you read it from cover to cover. The art is always very beautiful, but the words hit hard. A lot of it is x-rated. Not exactly my cup of tea. My advice: stick to the titles above.