Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch (1994)

Author: Neil Gaiman | Illustrator: Dave McKean | Page Count: 96

"I had an Aunt who claimed she had a tail, beneath her dress.
I sneered at her, made sure she knew I knew she was lying; but secretly, I could not stop myself from wondering."

I've read a large percentage of Gaiman's published works but I'd never encountered anything from him quite like this before.  It’s a loss of innocence tale presented as a first person memoir from a boy, now grown.  He recalls the Punch and Judy show that he encountered one dark summer, and which paralleled an aspect of his own life.  Intertwined within that recollection are a group of people that came briefly into his life, people who carried a sickness, a darkness that he was unable to make sense of.  Two things trouble him still, the sinister, violent Punch, and the family secrets.

It explores the nature of memory, and whether recollections can be relied upon considering they are often influenced by fear and perception.  It’s gloomy and saddening at times, offering little respite from the wickedness of the mind and the corruption that settles in the heart of the guilty.

The work is fully painted by Artist Dave McKean.  He doesn’t just use inks and paint to create his world, he throws in photographs of real people, blurred, painted over, time-lapsed moments, cut out seemingly slipshod but placed meticulously within the frame, or stuck onto models in abstract ways.  He also sculpts from driftwood, foliage, mechanical parts, cogs and clock faces, adding deep shadows and rust, giving the image a sinister, aged quality.  There is one picture in particular that gave me serious wiggins, yet I couldn’t look away.  His working method has been copied by many people over the years but McKean remains the master of it.

3½ adolescent fears out of 5

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