recess radio program

10/08/03
Little Lit. III: "It was a Dark and Silly Night"
    by John Cech

I can't think of a better way to spend and evening, with Halloween approaching, than with the latest installment of Little Lit, that project launched by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly that connects the comic with children's book authors and illustrators, or comic illustrators and authors with children's book themes. However one puts it, though, the result of this third collection in the series, It was a Dark and Silly Night, is a dazzling fusion of both art forms into something new, unexpected, and thoroughly absorbing.

There are twelve stories in this over-sized volume, and as an added bonus, there are endpapers by Martin Handford, well-known for his Where's Waldo books. On the inside cover at the beginning of the book, a horde of monsters threatens to engulf a teeming every-tropolis, like some kind graphic version of the The War of the Worlds. By book's end, though, the monster population has happily joined the hustle and bustle of the human community. Even Waldo makes a token (and only partial) appearance -- but of course you'll have to hunt for him.

Inside the endpapers, the stories themselves are provocative, absurdist fables by such writers and artisits as Neil Gaiman, Gahan Wilson, Barbara McClintock, Patrick McDonnell, William Joyce, J. Otto Seibold, Vivian Walsh, and the late Basil Wolverton. Each story takes its title and opening line from the title of the whole volume, and then plays with the idea through its own original riffs. The opening chapter by Lemony Snickett and Richard Sala, is a good example of where you can go with this premise. It deconstructs the idea of "silly" itself, breaking it down into an acronym that stands for "Somewhat Intelligent, Largely Laconic Yeti" and then connects the blue snowman, who appears one night outside the window of a little girl named Lucretia, with the girl's own spirit quest. Like the Yeti, she is "a little lonely herself" and one day, after having everyone doubt her vision, she wanders off to find the snowman, and, in the end -- well, I won't spoil it for you. These are unusual stories. Thank goodness. They don't take the predictable, stereotypical paths through the woods. But they do take us, to some wonderful and blissfully silly, happily every afters.

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