Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The DaVinci Cod by Chris Riddell

The DaVinci Cod is a book of cover pictures for books that were never written, a slim volume filled with pictures in Chris Riddell's style. It's a fairly clear style, with pictures ranging from the merely ordinary to the wildly fantastical. From "To Grill a Mockingbird" to "The Screwtape Lettuce" to "The Wizard of Odd".

I prefer to call this book "Books from another universe, slightly askew from ours". Most of the "books" are the same with a word changed or substituted. Everything from "The Ragged-Trousered Philatelists" to "Muddlemarch" to "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Umpire".

Riddell not only is an illustrator, but in his home country of England is a political cartoonist, as well as a novelist for children, with his "Ottoline" series, as well as being co-author and illustrator of "The Edge" series, the "Barnaby Grimes" series, "Far Flung Adventures" and so on.

Most of the books parodied within will be familiar to anyone who went to school, reads a great deal, or has studied the classics of literature (Muddlemarch, Wuthering Tights, Spaniel Deronda, A Mouse for Mr. Biswas. The Prime of Miss Aberdeen Angus, The Apes of Wrath, The Satanic Nurses), while others might not be as familiar (The Ragged-Trousered Philatelists, The Water Adolescents), Still others combine two or more books in one (Tess of the Baskervilles).

I loved this book and got lots of laughs out of the pictures in it, which are ones he did for the Literary Review. Not all of the ones published there made it into this book, but the ones that did are completely hilarious. I liked his takes on Charles Dickens, "The New Curiousity Shop", "Large Dorrit", and "Oliver Bust", and the ones that parodied popular movies, like "Heart of Dorkness", "2001- A Space Quiet Night In", "The World According to Carp", "To Grill a Mockingbird" and "The Catcher in the Fly"- all of which are also books, I know.

The book is small, and the illustrations are limited one to a page- all done in the thin-line style which characterizes his work. He's not above using images of the authors in his work, a parody of Oscar Wilde in "The Importance of Being Earless", modern-day figures "Sadam Bede" (which doesn't need to be explained) and even a Gregory Peck-like character using Barbecue sauce in "To Grill a Mockingbird". He's sure to draw a giggle, even if you don't necessarily know the work in question.

I liked this book a lot. Yes, there weren't many words, but the titles and the illustrations kept pulling me back in again and again to look at the book. I hope there's a follow-up to this one, because I've seen illustrations that aren't in the book, like "Hot Comfort Farm" and "The Forsyte Aga" among others. Even if it means looking at "The Naked and the Fed" again. Highly recommended, especially if you need a laugh.

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