Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Baking with Kafka

Baking with Kafka is a wonderful collection of witty, literary comics by Tom Gauld. He is one of my favorite contemporary comics creators, and I love his point of view and proclivities toward literature. Goliath and Mooncop are brilliant graphic novels you should definitely check out, and his prior collection You're Just Jealous of My Jetpack was comedy gold. The comics in this particular collection are similarly hilarious and range all over the place. They were originally published in The Guardian and are mostly about books and/or history. There are a couple of patterns to them that I noticed. Many of them mess with classics and modernization:
Others comment on authors, their works, and their lives:
Still others offer meta-commentary about the literary field/business. What I like about this book mostly is that I can pick it up and read a few comics whenever I want. They are random, sure, but all amusing at least and often hilarious. This book is the modern equivalent to me of The Far Side albums I would read when I was a kid, although they are way more literary than science-themed. It's full of weird, funny stuff, and I like that it connects with some of my favorite topics, which include reading and books.

The reviews I read of this book were mostly positive. The reviewer at Publishers Weekly liked it, summing up, "The art is dominated by shadowy stick figures that inhabit often complex spaces, which somehow makes it all the more droll." Rob Clough gave an in-depth analysis of the comics in this book and wrote, "I prefer his long-form work as it's drier and more restrained in its humor, but that's not to say that his pure gag work isn't entertaining as well." Annie Mok was less taken with the book, concluding her review, "Read this if you want to be mildly amused and you find it at your local library, but $20 is just too much for a stray chuckle or two out of 160 pages."

Gauld's art style is pretty minimal, kind of like Ed Emberley by way of Edward Gorey, but to me it is well suited to his sensibility and voice. For those who are interested in learning more, Gauld speaks about his work on this book in this interview.

Baking with Kafka was published by Drawn & Quarterly, and they have a preview and more available here.

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