Title: Tales From Outer Suburbia
Author: Shaun Tan
ISBN: 9780545055871
Pages: 92 pages
Publisher/Date: Arthur A. Levine Books, c2009.

This is an odd book that defines definition, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. The book is a collection of fifteen short illustrated stories that revolve around “outer surburbia” which is unlike any small city that I’ve ever encountered. In one story, a “foreign exchange student” comes to visit a family. In another, a man in an old diving suit pays a visit, and in a third a oceanic animal appears in the front yard. Some, like the ones just mentioned, could be described as weird. Others are a little more thought provoking and border on political and social commentary. “Alert but not alarmed” hypothesizes what would happen if intercontinental ballistic missiles were placed with every household. “Wake” portrays vindictive dogs who may or may not have enacted revenge against a fallen commrade. “Distant Rain” reflects on how poems are created, and leaves readers likewise reflective on what scraps of their lives and writings yield to others and question their “strange feeling of weightlessness/ or the private smile that remains”. The end result is something that stands apart from other graphic and textual novels, but that lacks cohesiveness. The narration seems to be from residents of suburbia discussing their findings in this strange place in a matter of fact tone. “So I can’t say why it was that Eric chose to sleep and study most of the time in our kitchen pantry.” (9)

While yes, the stories stick with me, I’m not sure I can readily recommend the book into anyone. Read it, and see what stories stick. What would you do if found in these situations?

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