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.

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Notes
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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