Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan reminds me why I'm always telling everyone that Shaun Tan is my favorite illustrator. His illustrations are beautiful and his prose is wonderfully written. Organized by different animals, the chapters explore various aspects of humanity with short essays (and in some cases poems) accompanied by full page color illustrations. I broke down a few of the stories to my mom who thought they were rather dark and bleak but I explained this is how Tan gets his meaning across. This book looks at life in the inner city through the eyes of animals as a way to explore humanity both its cruel, despairing underbelly and its hopeful, optimistic fur (this analogy got away from me). For example, one story features a secretary who walks into the boardroom of the company she works for only to find that all the members of the board have inexplicably turned into frogs. She goes panics (including going back to her desk to play a few hands of computer solitaire) and worries she will be blamed and possibly fired before deciding the best course is to take these frogs home and care for them as if they were her pets. It turns out that this suits both herself and the frogs equally well because they were tired of being burdened with the troubles of being human. And here we thought all frogs wanted to be turned into handsome princes!
Tan shines a light on the darker aspects of humanity like cruelty, thoughtlessness, divisiveness, and greed because he wants to show that this isn't all that we are and we can strive for so much more. His work is considered sci-fi/fantasy because the scenarios themselves are 'unrealistic' like men turning into frogs or pigs that can survive even if you're hacking into them piece by piece over several weeks. But haven't you thought about what it would be like to walk away from all of your responsibilities and have someone else take care of you without any design or nefarious intention? What if you lived in a place where almost everything was industrialized and you were simply a cog in a giant machine slogging away in a factory hating your day to day? And what if the only bright point in your life happened at the end of your shift when you and your fellow employees climbed onto the back of the last surviving (ginormous) yak? That seemed pretty believable up until that very last line didn't it? That's because there's a touch of reality mixed in with the absurd making this one of the loveliest things I've read in quite a while. If you've never read Tan before pick up Tales from the Inner City and then pick up everything else he's ever written because you'll be hooked. 10/10
|The corporate frogs. [Source 3x3 Magazine]|
|Source: 3x3 Magazine|
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