in a dark vein

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories

written/illustrated by Tim Burton.

HarperEntertainment, 1997.

Hardback, 128 pages.

  • Stick Boy and Match Girl in Love
  • Voodoo Girl
  • Robot Boy
  • Staring Girl
  • The Boy with Nails in His Eyes
  • The Girl with Many Eyes
  • Stain Boy
  • The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy
  • Stain Boy’s Special Christmas
  • The Girl Who Turned into a Bed
  • Roy, the Toxic Boy
  • James
  • Stick Boy’s Festive Season
  • Brie Boy
  • Mummy Boy
  • Junk Girl
  • The Pin Cushion Queen
  • Melonhead
  • Sue
  • Jimmy, the Hideous Penguin Boy
  • Char Boy
  • Anchor Baby
  • Oyster Boy Steps Out

Like Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Sean brought Tim Burton’s The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories to our Home Library. The slim volume is a collection of poems/short stories best described in the vein of dark humor.

Black Humor: noun, in literature and drama, combining the morbid and grotesque with humor and farce to give a disturbing effect and convey the absurdity and cruelty of life. ~Dictionary.com’s 21st Century Lexicon

I like the Absurd. And the collection has an absurdity that I adore; primarily, because it is so effective.While The Gashlycrumb Tinies appeals to the macabre and tickles more than jabs, in The Melancholy Death there is a sharp edge that worries.

Anchor Baby (104-111) is probably the most easily read meaning-wise and least humorous. Just the same, it is lovely. It just tips toward the pitiable.  “There was a beautiful woman who came from the sea.” She loved a man named Walker who was part of a band. She tried everything to “capture” him. And then finally she had an idea–have his baby!

But to give birth to the baby

they needed a crane.

The umbilical cord

was in the form of a chain.

[...]

The baby that was meant

to bring them together,

just shrouded them both

in a cloud of foul weather.

Walker left her, rejoined his band.

And she was alone

with her gray baby anchor,

who got so oppressive

that it eventually sank her.

*

As she went to the bottom,

not fulfilling her wish,

it was her, and her baby…

and a few scattered fish.

 

Sean’s favorite is Stick Boy and Match Girl in Love (0-3). You can sense the impending disaster the title implies, can’t you? But even the story is hard to resist just the same.

Stick Boy liked Match Girl,

he liked her a lot.

He liked her cute figure,

he thought she was hot.

But could a flame ever burn

for a match and a stick?

It did quite literally;

he burned up pretty quick.

 

It is hard to choose a favorite, but Robot Boy (4-9) makes me laugh out loud the most and the most often. The gist: Mr. and Mrs. Smith are a “normal, happy husband and wife.” And then Mrs. Smith becomes pregnant and gives birth to a robot.

Mr. Smith yelled at the doctor,

“What have you done to my boy?

He’s not flesh and blood,

he’s aluminum alloy!”

*

The doctor said gently,

“What I’m going to say

will sound pretty wild.

But you’re not the father of this strange-looking child.

You see, there still is some question

about the child’s gender,

but we think that its father

is a microwave blender.”

*

The Smiths’ lives were now filled

with misery and strife.

Mrs. Smith hated her husband,

and he hated his wife.

He never forgave her unholy alliance:

a sexual encounter

with a kitchen appliance.

 

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories really appeals to my sense of humor. How it mocks serious topics attracts me as well.

Some more of the Artwork:

Mummy Boy

Voodoo Girl

The Pin Cushion Queen

 

The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Gorey is easier for me to recommend, but I think many who enjoy it would enjoy The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories .* I would certainly encourage anyone to check it out…we find it a fun addition to our Library.**

*When I posted "Tis the Season" on Edward Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies Logan of Rememorandom made the connection in the comments section. Thought I would round out the RIP V challenge with Burton's book, as I began with Gorey's.
** This is not a children's book. N (who is 10) still has a few years yet.
wiki link for book.

3 thoughts on “in a dark vein

  1. Oh yes! How great this tiny book is. Certainly absurd, that’s for sure. The illustrations are beautiful, and the dark humor is delightful. Now, as with the Gashleycrumb’s, I want to pick this thing up again and read through it.

    On absurdism, I once started an epic poem called “The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria” on my blog. I had almost 30k words written on it before life caught up and I got sidetracked. It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had writing something. I thought it was funny. If you’re e’er bored and wanna try some unfinished, absurd story, here’s the link to the wiki I made for the story of Oscambria. (Heck, you can tell I was having fun if I made a wiki for it…)

  2. Haven’t read this one for a long, long time, but love it just the same. I’ve been a fan of Burton’s for a very long time and his artwork speaks to me in a similar manner as Gorey’s, despite their differences. I also enjoy his macabre sense of humor.

    If you are interested, years ago they made some flash cartoons of the Stain Boy stories. If you Google ‘Stain Boy’ you should find all the episodes.

  3. Pingback: wrapped « omphaloskepsis

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