Page 45 Review by Stephen
And with change came fear.
And with fear, came blame.
Soon everyone had their very own name for the dread.
And ultimately, what is the act of naming, but a special kind of tidying away?
Well indeed, we do love to compartmentalise see Shaun Tans THE LOST THING. In fact, fans of Shaun Tan, please see and read Stephen Collins THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL. Its right up your suburb!
Such is the structure here with its dialogue and sound effects integrated within the third-person narrative that I have, however, missed out the nature of the naming:
Its a punishment from God.
Its natures revenge.
Its just pure EVIL.
Its just a little bit of history repeating itself.
Oh, the sheep mentality those so easily lead to dread all and sundry! Stephen Collins has much to say about our reaction to the new or unknown, and those who would fan the flames of that fear. And he has slotted it all into this whopping piece of whimsy told in softest graphite on thick, cream paper about a man whos been bald from birth save for a teeny-tiny hair under his nose which will neither grow nor be snipped away. It is a constant, and constants are very reassuring, arent they?
Dave lives Here. More precisely, Dave lives on a street on the outer edge of Here which is entirely surrounded by sea. On the outer edges of the sea lies There. No one wants to go There. No one wants to go to sea, and those few who do have not come back. Its so unsettling that the houses which line the cliff tops are all for sale. None of them have windows on the sea-side: its best not to look. Instead they face inwards, looking on to the impeccably maintained, identical streets whose trees are conscientiously clipped into uniform shapes. Its all very neat and all very tidy just like its residents.
Dave is comforted by this so sits at his window, alone at night, sketching the suburb without scratching its surface while listening to The Bangles Eternal Flame on repeat. It blots out the sound of the sea.
By day, Dave ventures into the city, right in the heart of Here and as far away from There as you can get, where he works as a data analyst. Hes not entirely sure where the data comes from or what it is for, but its there, every morning, in his Inbox, ready to be ordered into graphs and pie charts and flow charts and Venn Diagrams. Tidied away, it all makes sense if something without purpose could be said to make sense. Until, one day, it doesnt, and this sudden, alarming eruption of chaos catalyses a psychosomatic eruption of its own that of Daves beard!
Its such a dreamy read whose gentle narrative drifts across the pages, in and out of the panels, never assuming or consuming much time, leaving the images to live and breath; leaving the reader time to chuckle at everyones absurdity and space to gawp at the sheer majesty of the biggest beard you will ever see in your life!
However will the government cope? Who will be conscripted to whip those whiskers into shape as they sprawl ever onwards, outwards and upwards? Whoever it is, there will be knock-on effects throughout the land and (although I wont spoil the biggest surprises) I cannot resist The Here Mail headline after a squad of riot coppers kettling the beast fall prey to its fulsome fecundity:
POLICE CAUGHT BY THE FUZZ
Oh, The Here Mail: you will wince with recognition. Not least at its opinion column entitled
Why Im So Angry About All Of This.