I was quite excited about some new titles that came into the shop this week. The world that never was by Alex Butterworth is a book I’ve been waiting on for AGES and charts the various anarchist groups that were bombing around Europe in the late eighteenth century. These agent provocateurs who dreamed of a utopian Europe free of class division would end up stoking a vision of the world riddled with conspiracy theories that would have a harrowing impact on the twentieth century.
Another welcome arrival is belching out the devil by English comedian Mark Thomas. On the surface this is a humorous take on the ascent and consolidation of the coca cola brand, but Thomas goes further and exposes some brutal facts behind the world famous soft drink company. He investigates claims of child labour abuses, the murder of union leaders in Columbia and the toxic contaminations of wells in India, asking us to consider the impact of globalization and the West’s drive for consumer goods on the poor. Read this book and you may want to take your shot of vodka without the black stuff in future.
But I digress. After Spending months carefully deliberating and researching, I decided to ignore all that and take five minutes to find my favorite book in the store. There was no real contest. It’s a book I give to my friends as presents (good friends I mean, everyone else gets a $20 gift voucher). In my opinion Hamlet by William Shakespeare is the best book in the shop. An obvious choice I guess, but this is the Danish prince like you’ve never seen him before.
Nicki Greenburg is a Melbourne artist who’s given Hamlet the inkblot treatment. She’s drawn a graphic novel interpretation of Shakespeare’s famous play and has perhaps created the most stunning rendition of the play I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot of the bard). As a person who can’t draw a convincing stick figure, it’s hard to muster the words to describe the artwork, so if my review sounds slightly pat then forgive me, so here goes. The play is literally staged, with the background presented as a theatre and the inkblot characters as actors playing the action, including a backstage where a disturbing love triangle is played out between the actors. The inkblot actors are simple creations, all black blobs with faces; a whimsical style that will be familiar to manga fans. Given the sparse backdrop and simplified artwork, it’s remarkable just how much energy Greenburg has brought to each scene. When Hamlet confronts his mother with accusations of incest and corruption, he explodes into black streaks of rage, racing in pieces all over the page. The background colours and shapes shift to reflect the dark mood of the play. In essence, this is an energetic, loving representation of Shakespeare’s great work, perfect for young readers and hardcore readers alike.
I suppose the only way to appreciate the work is to come to Domain books, your favorite independent bookshop, and take a look for yourself. See you soon.