Saturday, August 1, 2009

Middle-Aged Rage?

I've been meaning to pull together this post highlighting some of the reviews of The One Marvelous Thing :
(Click on the pictures for a close-up view)

The biggest was a substantial review in the L. A. Times, where Susan Salter Reynolds called Rikki's story collection a "manifesto of middle-aged rage" and said of my drawings, "They erode the text, and maybe that was the intention. We are so used to drawings enhancing prose that it wouldn't surprise me if Ducornet and illustrator T. Motley had cooked up something different." In fact, that's what we did.

She goes on to say some fairly nice things, like: "Ducornet appeals to her readers' feral natures; their covetous side (she is a master collector of glittering objects -- corsets, linens, gold and dumplings -- which are sprinkled generously throughout her prose) and their lascivious, voyeuristic tendencies. You feel naughty reading Ducornet, you hide the book. Gonna have to face it -- you're addicted to lit."

Charles E. May, professor emeritus of literature at California State University, Long Beach, wrote in the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinal, "Ducornet has still got it" and called my illustrations "sometimes whimsical, sometimes grotesque."
"If you go to and type in Rikki Ducornet's name, you can watch the names of Barthelme, Borges, Barth, Coover, Lovecraft, Calvino and Angela Carter fan out around her. We should be glad that although those who know only the 'normal' may frown in disapproval, there are still writers like Ducornet who have their number. For which we cannot resist singing a chorus of the Steely Dan song inspired by her, 'Rikki, Don't Lose that Number.' "
In The Seattle Times, Robert Allen Papinchak called my drawings "devilishly haunting" though he warned "Some may find the graphic imagery of the illustrations disturbing." He said the texts are "a wholly original series of phantasmagorical tales" and "an irresistible sequence of bizarre, quirky and zany stories."
Jacob Lee, in the Brick Weekly of Richmond Va., wrote, "The more erudite among us might recognize Ducornet for her half-mocking pastiches of post-modernist style, but what you probably didn’t know is that she’s a wonderful short story writer, creating modern fables that read like Calvino re-translated for our strange, modern years. This small collection showcases some of her best stuff, and is wonderfully illustrated throughout by the incomparable T. Motley. Good stuff."
The Midwest Book Review gave the book five out of five stars, said my work is "charming," and said the author " ranges from humor to joy to love to suicidal depression."
Publisher's Weekly mentioned my "inky, scruffy black-and-white sketches" and said of the writing, "these stories spotlight Ducornet's linguistic pyrotechnics and will delight readers who, like Ducornet, can find the beauty in the irreverent and absurd".
Leslie Patterson in the Library Journal called Rikki's writing "wildly unconventional" and "boldly inventive" but dissed my work as "more juvenile than witty," which stung at first, until I remembered the various penises and blow jobs I put in there. What's a librarian expected to think?
I came across an enthusiast review on a website called Library Thing, where a member going by kmaziarz said "The book is boldly illustrated with pen-and-ink style cartoons and sketches whose hidden details, snarled curving lines, and snide humor somewhat recall the “underground comix” style and perfectly complement the stories." and called the stories " Surreal, vivid, and often strangely lovely."
Jeff VanderMeer at wrote: "Ducornet can lay rightful claim to being one of North America's preeminent surrealists. She is sui generis in her particular combination of passion and precision, the strange muscular delicacy with which she approaches her writing. In her latest collection, that sensibility is supplemented in true eccentric fashion by the illustrations of T. Motley (who may well be a pseudonym for Ducornet, since she is also an artist)."
Hmmm. Am I a pseudonym for Rikki Ducornet? A tantalizing thought. Is it too late to make that my ambition?
One cool development has been that the book is beginning to be taught in colleges. The thought that people are being required to look at my pictures and graded on whether they did so gives me a perverse thrill. One professor, Catherine Kasper of The University of Texas at San Antonio, has provided some of the students' feedback:
"By far this is the coolest book I'll have assigned to read this semester."
"This book is fantastic, one of the most enjoyable reads of my college career. Ducornet's prose is subtle in the way it tells the story, leaving just enough for the reader to imagine and make me completely jealous."
"I love love love these stories. The use of illustrations informs the text with manic comic psychedelic energy!"
So there you have it. You know you want it. Here's one of the ways to get it.