You think it’s Marcus, don’t you? You think Marcus Marvel is my new imaginary literary boyfriend. But you’re wrong. THE ENTIRE BOOK is my new imaginary literary boyfriend! The book is THE MARVELS by Brian Selznick.
People always rag on Dickens because he used coincidence a lot in his novels. That’s so unfair. Because why? Because coincidence happens, like, ALL the TIME in real life.
I’m in a couple of email lists with Leila Taylor, the awsomesauce site-mama of Buried Under Books. When somebody posts a review to her site, she informs members of the email lists. I usually just scan them, because, let’s be frank: I already have seventeen bazillion books I haven’t read yet. This one, though, grabbed me. I’m pretty sure it was the cover. No, I tell a lie: it was the enthusiasm of jv poore, the reviewer.
I immediately hopped over to Amazon’s site and ordered the book. It arrived, and it’s MASSIVE. It’s also beautiful! Looka this book!The front cover is actually dark blue, though I could make it look either bright blue or black in my photo. Black is closer. The picture on the cover is shiny gold, and the edges of the pages are gold. The drawing on the spine and back typifies the high quality of those inside.
This is one of those books that make actual sense of the statement, “I like real books. I like to hold them in my hands.” Usually, I’m like, “How do you hold your Kindle, then, with your feet?” This book is a pleasure to hold, and a pleasure to look at, to turn and examine from all sides and angles.
The book, not counting the afterword, is about 650 pages. I say “about,” because over half of that is full-page or double-page illustrations by the author, also a story, or part of the same story, or ….
The afterword explains the odd experience I had while reading the text portion of the novel. It also has a quote by Wim Wenders, my imaginary directorial boyfriend.
SO ANYWAY, I gobbled up the first part of the book, beautiful drawings that lead you through the story of a shipwreck into a multi-generational celebration of family that branches and blossoms through acceptance of parental responsibility, of one’s own blood kin or of others’ children.
The text begins with a parallel story, of a boy planning to foist himself onto his unknown uncle — assuming he can find him. More teasing parallels winkle in, but the odd experience I had related to something else.
As the story progressed, I kept having the feeling I had been in this or that setting before, that I had seen this or that place, that I knew things before I was told them.
Sure enough, the afterword confirmed one of my bits of recognition. The uncle’s house is inspired by Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields, London, England, which was one of my Friday Recommends.
There was more, though, and I had to dig it out of my poor old brain. Another of my recommends, British artist Liam O’Farrell, has done a series of drawings and paintings of Spitalfields, including one of Spitalfields Market, which also appears in THE MARVELS. (If you want to learn more about Spitalfields, I highly recommend Spitalfields Life, written by “the gentle author”).
Who would believe such a double coincidence? Yet true.
Read this book. Lissen: READ THIS BOOK!
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: My favorite exercise is to take a headline from the front page of the paper and one from deep inside the paper and make them part of the same story. Or you could take two lines from two totally different sorts of books and do the same thing.