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December 2015



TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA (SHAUN TAN)


When I was at high school, I drew a picture of the shopping centre that was across the road from the school. It was one of those 80's-designed affairs with an empty open-air square in the middle; furnished with uncomfortable metal seats painted in faded primary colours, uneven cheap pavers and geometric planters full of thin, sandy soil, cigarette butts and the stringy brown remains of palm trees.  And of course there were empty shops. That's a given.  When I drew the shopping centre, I made the shop-front display windows completely black.  The colours I used were all dark, there was no people or movement.  I didn't think of it at the time, but my Art Teacher said it was a creepy drawing, there was no life to it, and there should be because it's a picture of a bloody shopping centre.  I don't know why I drew it like that, but that's how that place felt to me; it made me uneasy.  Shaun Tan's pictures and narratives make me uneasy in the same way.  I am not sure why, because his pictures are beautiful, and his words are a strange mix of poignant and funny. But reading this book made me sad and uneasy.  But I still really liked it.  Maybe I like feeling sad and uneasy.

A couple of his short narratives brought tears to my eyes.  His pictures are detailed and dark; frenzied in places and calm in others.  The Stick Figures short story, and accompanying pictures, is creepy creepy.  If you haven't seen any of Shaun Tan's art or read any of his work, you at least have to give it a go.  Give this book a go, it has a lot to say, and in a way that only Shaun Tan can say it.








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