Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy

Tim Burton has long been my favorite director. I've seen all of his films, I've attended his exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, and I've read all his books. Yes, he's an author too. Most of us know about the poem that gave birth to the animated classic The Nightmare Before Christmas, but Tim's got several more morbid rhymes up his sleeve. With a title like The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy And Other Stories, it's a fair bet that this poetry collection shares the vibe of his cinematic work: a little scary, very funny, and just plain weird.

The book contains a couple dozen poems with oddball protagonists. Almost all of them are children with supernatural handicaps or deformities who fall victim to cruelty and/or accidental death, a common theme with Burton. Some poems, such as the titular tale, go on for a few pages, while others may be a single sentence long. Burton favors simple rhyme schemes and basic structure; the comparisons to Dr. Seuss are justifiable. Of course, this is Dr. Seuss writing as Edgar Allan Poe. Most of the characters end up dead by the end of the poem through happenstance or violence, and those that make it out alive are either injured or afflicted with a curious condition. Each one is accompanied by illustrations that spell out the story, and Burton works in a scratchy, almost child-like style that is very appropriate for the book. True to form, he also manages to work in his two favorite holidays (Halloween and Christmas) in a few places.

Even though Oyster Boy's name is on the cover, the real draw here is Stainboy. He is one of a few characters to have two poems dedicated to him, and the author clearly has a soft spot for the sad superhero. Fans of Stainboy's flash-animated web series will notice other familiar faces throughout the book who appeared alongside (or against) him, such as Staring Girl and Roy, the Toxic Boy. 

The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy is short enough to be read in one sitting, and even though it's not great literature, it'll amuse any fan of dark humor and Tim Burton films. Hopefully, Burton will do another collection soon. It might be good for him to take a break from directing anyway. I mean, Alice In Wonderland? Sheesh.

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