by Joe Meno
I had never heard of Joe Meno when I saw this book in, of all the unlikely places for it, a Barnes & Noble. It was misplaced, set out on a shelf as if someone who knew what it really was understood it needed to be shown off unexpectedly if it was going to be brought home and liberated.
What is it, really? The sturdy clothbound book is surprisingly soft, it’s over large for a book of fiction, has rich endpapers the way old books used to, and it feels wonderfully strange. Even better, the wonderful strangeness deepens once you start reading.
It contains twenty stories, each with illustrations from contemporary artists. I recognized several of the names: Charles Burns, Paul Hornschemeier, Souther Salazar. I love the concept — short stories with pictures, but not at all a comic (even though some of the artists work in comics).
In one story the world goes dangerously blindingly dark at night; there’s a bank robbery/hostage situation in Stockholm; a man whose wife turns into a cloud; a woman with an city growing in her chest; and a heartbreakingly sensitive tiny elephant to name but a few of the more unexpected elements. There’s also a teacher devoted to Model UN, a young couple who deals with a miscarriage, brothers who work at the family’s rundown marine park, and a cop whose marriage just might be ending. I enjoyed not knowing if the next story would be set in my world, or some other place where the rules were quite different.
There aren’t as many copies of this book as you’d think, considering where I found it: Akashic Books put out 4,000 copies. I highly recommend finding one of the 3,999 left and making it yours.