The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy
Tim Burton
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Buy *The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories* online

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories
Tim Burton
William Morrow
115 pages
October 1997
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Repackaged with a holiday dust jacket that matches the upcoming paperback cover, Tim Burtonís The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories: Stick Boy's Festive Season has a title nearly as long as some of the stories. With a wink and a nod thrown Edward Gorey's (The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Haunted Tea Cosy) way, the director of "Edward Scissorhands" and "Mars Attacks" puts to paper the same darkly humorous vision of his cinematic work.

The recurring eponymous Oyster Boy, for instance, is born to very surprised parents who lament their bad luck and, when the stress of having such a strange child leads to trouble in the marital bed, their doctor suggests the father try - yup - oysters, and with a slithery gulp, Oyster Boy is down his father's maw. There's Stick Boy, who falls in love with Match Girl but alas, the flame of their passion glows too hot and Stick Boy is incinerated. And don't forget Stain Boy (a superhero who's like the Peanuts character Pigpen - but wetter), Jimmy the Hideous Penguin Boy, Char Boy (mistaken for coal dust and swept out into the street), Mummy Boy (who's bulbous wrapped noggin is mistaken for a birthday party piñata), etc. What Burton's sad kids all have in common is their bizarre difference.

It's in the nature of the drawings - simple but supremely twisted - along with the tragic tales they illustrate that begs comparison with Gorey, although Burton's book is less stilted and less Anglic than Gorey's. Without the drawings, the stories would fall flat - ditto Gorey - and that's the peculiar genius of this type of adult graphic book (no, it's patently not for the kiddies). This is the kind of book you keep lying around (it only takes about a quarter of an hour to get through) as a satirical antidote to the cynicism that occasionally gets you in its icy grip -- like posting your favorite Far Side cartoons on your fridge, although Oyster Boy and his ilk are on a whole different level of skewed from Larson's chubby bespectacled troublemakers and plotting cows and ultra-domestic snakes. It's smart, weird, brilliant and funny, and perfect for those days when that cloud won't move from over your head. Hope for more of the same from Burton's scrawling pen.

© 2002 by Sharon Schulz-Elsing for Curled Up With a Good Book

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