Ever wonder how America looked to immigrants arriving from Central Europe in the 1920's and 1930's? Under the threat of the Nazis? Can you imagine how weird, incomprehensible, and wondrous NYC might have seemed to someone from Lublin, Krakow, or Tisalich?
The Arrival by Shaun Tan, is a wordless story, with hundreds of amazing drawings, telling that tale. The illustrations are surreal enough to give an American the same disorientation, and the same wonder, as someone arriving on our shore for the first time from somewhere very different.
It's actually several stories all folded together, all of them about immigrants, and while parts of it are quite dark, the stories are bright and hopeful, overall.
It also gave me a strong impression of the nearly magical lure that America had for people in that time. It's not all good, the picture painted of us in this book or in the history of the 20's and 30's, but we did stand as a beacon of comparative brightness in the dark, and that is handled well in The Arrival. I'll let you, in comments, opine about America's position in the world today...
If you have an opportunity to look at this book, in a store or in a library, please do. And it would make a wonderful gift. I plan to reread it just to look again at all the fascinating and amusing creatures and the strange architecture. You can see the first few pages on Amazon (their "Look Inside" applet). They don't go far enough to show you America, though... For that, you'll have to get your hands on the real thing.
>>>> Appendix de Grenouille #20 <<<<
Here Grenouille is also visiting another world. He is on Smooja, one of the planets of the Bibadil system, imagined over a decade ago by our oldest son. Back when we created the gravel path between the flower beds we call England and France (our stony English Channel or Sleeve, depending on your point of view) I was creating stepping stones with cement, stains, and a lettering kit. We created all the planets of this system, and set them around the yard in what our oldest, then about eleven or twelve years old, thought right for his creation. The system is inhabited by a series of odd, intelligent and magic beings, which he drew for years, leading to more involved drawings and world later (start at the bottom of that blog, to get the story in order).
Smooja has a moon, called Smali. And Grenouille made the side trip to tour it, as well. In our yard the house is meant to stand for Bibadil (in size and location) and the planets of Drayeen (the largest and most varied in inhabitants), Smooja (with it's moon Smali), and Optican (a weird, uninhabited planet where optical illusions hold sway and many of the creatures' magic stops working) are positioned around it.