Tales from Outer Suburbia
Arthur A. Levine Books (February 1, 2009)
Shaun Tan's graphic novels are quirky in their vision of a world that looks like our own, and yet it opens up all the fantastical aspects hiding under the mundane. Like Tan's wordless graphic novel The Arrival, Tales tells layered stories even without words. These are tales of suburbia with a twist. The tales start with our separation from ourselves, from our neighbors, even from our environment, but somewhere very close, there is hope and redemption.
In these tales we see desolation: the green painted concrete front yards where no tree will grow, the attic that's so hot that the plastic Christmas tree melts to the bottom of the roof. But the people on these pages, mostly through sheer dumb luck find beauty - whether it's a lush inner courtyard hidden until someone accidentally falls through the ceiling, or the unique uses of our own intercontinental ballistic missile, there's hope that we won't totally lose our humanity.
My favorite was the piece called "Distant Rain" written like a found poem and looking like a collage of random words and phrases pieced together into "accidental verse" about what happens to poems that people write but never show others, attracted, pieced together and forming a ball of poetry until it comes back to earth in a billion soggy shreds.