So, another birthday season has come and gone. I turned 43 yesterday, and that's it for our family for the rest of the year. Among other lovely things, Elf and the boys gave me a terrific pair of books by Shaun Tan: The Arrival and Sketches from a Nameless Land - together in a boxed set.
The Arrival is a beautiful, wordless story. A family living in the city are finding life getting harder and darker. Dangerous serpentine shadows lurk in the margins. The man leaves his wife and daughter and emigrates to a distant and very strange land. He is lonely and confused - he cannot read the signs, understand the customs or work the vending machines. He gradually makes inroads in the new world, a year passes, and his family come to join him. Happy ending.
The amount of imagination, creativity and sheer hard work involved needs to be seen to be believed. The companion volume Sketches from a Nameless Land shows how much work goes into such a book, before the final drawings are even commenced. It's like looking over the shoulder of a genius while he is kicking things around, and anything is still possible. He drew half the book before he realised he had got the style wrong, and went back to the beginning.
Shaun Tan is a national living treasure. The best thing is that he is quite young - I hope we are lucky enough to see many more books from him. Oh, and he won an Oscar the other day. Well done little guy!