Finally got hold of the aforementioned brilliant book, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories, written and illustrated by Tim Burton. As with his films, Burton’s writing often appears childlike, belying a highly sophisticated blend of innocence and the macabre.
He conveys with great skill the pain of being an outsider, through a cast of derrangedly depicted children, each filled with a wide-eyed innocence that inspires our sympathy. In each tale of these misunderstood outcasts they struggle to find love and place where they belong in a cruel world that will not have them. This is not a kids book filled with happy endings for these children, but rather a catalogue of how each one is destroyed in their battle against the world. As the back cover states perfectly, “His lovingly lurid illustrations evoke both the sweetness and tragedy of these hopeful, yet hapless, beings.”
“The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy” is the longest of these poems and the saddest as result, but many of the three-line shorts can be just as moving, like “Jimmy, the Hideous Penguin Boy”. This is not the easiest book to get hold of, but doing so is definitely worthwhile, for Burton’s genius and a dramatic portrayal of loneliness and despair as an outcast. Brilliant stuff.
With an RRP of £12.99 for just 115 pages of about 4 lines per page, it may seem a little expensive, but bearing in mind that this is a hardback book with numerous colour illustrations throughout, it’s more than worth it. Trust me, I’m an outsider…
For those near Croydon, I’d highly recommend Sussex Stationers in The Whitgift centre, near Marks & Spencers, who stock a decent set of new releases and will order any book, offering impressive discounts if their distributor stocks it (my Lord of the Rings black box set was £20 everywhere, and they ordered it in for £9.99!). Friendly staff too, so definitely worth checking out if there’s something specific you’re after.