January 12, 2012

New Shelf: Hark! A Vagrant

I was as excited to find Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant under the tree this Christmas (Thanks Aunt Sue!) as I was to find it on the shelf at Durham County Library. The book is a collection from the webcomic same name, and it generally features historical and literary themes, the hilarious likes of which I haven't seen anywhere else. The book's first strip, "Dude Watchin' with the Brontës",1 features Anne's sound criticism of Charlotte and Emily's predilection for dark, brooding men. Another2 depicts a cynical, sarcastic smoker of a Wonder Woman reluctantly rescuing a cat from a tree. Still another, the series entitled "Courtly Love", chronicles the history of a medieval romance that is thoroughly anachronistic and completely believable.

From "Courtly Love"3
These strips are among the funniest I have ever read, and yet I must admit that they are often much smarter than me (cf. Brontës). It doesn't stop them from being funny by any means, but I am happy to report that the book includes an extended set of cartoons that seem to have been made just for me. Each four-panel strip starts with a book cover, either from a Nancy Drew book or from any number by Edward Gorey, and constructs a tiny, tiny narrative suggested only by the cover illustration or its title.

From the Nancy Drew series4

 From the Edward Gorey series5

I can't really explain what it is about these that works so well. Just know that, even now, the room in which I sit is filled with squelched laughter and giggling, as it has been every time I've seen or even thought about them. And really, I think that's the best recommendation I can give.

Durham County Library patrons will find Hark! A Vagrant in the general nonfiction (along with the rest of our comic strip collections) under 741.597 BEATON. Everyone can (and should) see Kate Beaton's work at harkavagrant.com.

Top image from http://harkavagrant.com © Kate Beaton
1. Available at http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=202
2. Available at http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=225
3. Available at http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=282
4. Available at http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=279
5. Available at http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=242

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