The entire composition of this graphic monograph is a collection of book covers with their invented whimsical, pertinent, deadpan, and frequently hilarious titles. The titles, penned in a variety of uppercase handwritten typefaces, are displayed on diverse bold coloured images of books, sometimes with simple illustrations but most frequently unadorned. This is truly a library of words, the intriguing combination of which are repeatedly confusing, illuminating, and entertaining.

The Canadian creators, founding members of the art collective the Royal Art Lodge in Winnipeg, have been collaborating on art projects for more than fifteen years. The Royal Art Lodge has since been disbanded, but the two continue to work together with their work in many permanent collections of galleries in Canada and Europe. The two artists began gathering their book covers for this project in 2009. The structure of this unique library seems quite random, the books are not organized alphabetically, by theme, or even by colour. The reader is free to browse the collection of over two hundred titles without any directives. The library of titles can be read from cover to cover or dipped in leisurely to offer consolation, consultation, or curiosity (or all three at the same time). Numerous pages contain four or nine books while other pages focus on only one title. Some of the books are depicted as open, offering a hint to the pages within and a glimpse at both the front and back covers, while others are upright and closed. Still others rest on an unseen surface, surrounded by saturated coloured backgrounds. The simple illustration of the red book featured on the back cover, “It’s Not Going To Be What You Think. It Can’t Be Described Properly, Or Understood Easily. It’s Everything To Me. It May Be Nothing To You,” may offer a clue to the interior and intent of the book itself.

Ranging from laconic to suggestive, the idiosyncratic titles are continually thought provoking. One of my favourites is, ironically, a full page spread with an illustration of a silhouette of an androgynous profile on the cover: “You Should Consider Your Words, Because I Will Take Them Seriously”. Other favourites offer homilies and earnest advice, “You Can Only Learn The Same Thing From The Same Mistake So Many Times,” and “The Art Of Never Finishing Your.” Others suggest sarcastic opinions that resonate with this reader. “Can You Hand The Phone To Someone Interesting?,” “You Can Talk All You Like, My Ears Are On Strike,and I Have a Medical Condition That Makes it So I Don’t Have to Talk to You.” However, I must caution that my list of favourite titles did change and morph with each rereading, the time of day I was reading it, and the setting in which I found myself while reading. This is a treasure that gives again and again and again.

Complicated to explain, this library collection of words and images, offers countless possibilities to adult and young adult readers from writing assignments to book group discussions. It pays homage to both concrete art and to the power of words. Highly recommended for school and public libraries.


Library
By Michael Dumontier, Neil Farber
Drawn & Quarterly, 2021
ISBN: 9781770464124

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Canadian

  • Gail

    | She/Her Professor, Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta

    Reviewer

    In addition to teaching at the School of Library and Information Studies (University of Alberta) where she is an adjunct professor, Gail tells stories and conducts workshops on a wide variety of topics across Canada and the United States. Each year she teaches the following courses for the University of Alberta. All of her courses are delivered online: Storytelling, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries, Canadian Children’s Literature for School and Public Libraries and Young Adult Literature. She also teaches a course on Indigenous Literature for the ATEP program (Aboriginal Teacher Education Program) at the University of Alberta. Gail is the award-winning author of nine books on storytelling and folklore in popular culture.

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