order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish

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Triumph of the Hornschemeier

June 29, 2011

On Monday I got back from a dizzying five days at the American Library Association conference in New Orleans. I will talk about it in a future post, but in the meantime here is a book―and a man―you must know more about.

Paul Hornschemeier is a good friend and, lucky for me, the cover artist of the paperback version of The Order of Odd-Fish. But what he’s really known for are his fantastic graphic novels such as Mother Come Home and The Three Paradoxes:

Paul’s latest, Life With Mr. Dangerous, just came out and it’s my favorite thing he’s done―and that’s saying something, because I was a fan of Paul’s even before I met him. The story is about the vaguely dissatisfied, sometimes infuriatingly passive, yet instantly likeable and utterly recognizable Amy Breis, who is floating along in boredom and isolation in her dead-end world: crappy job, unsympathetic boyfriend, awkward dates, nagging mother. The only thing that seems to consistently fire her enthusiasm is “Mr. Dangerous,” a surreal TV show.

A feisty, resourceful heroine Amy is not. But the appeal of the book comes from how Paul catches the awkward gaps in conversation, the hidden indignities of everyday life, how people miss each others’ meaning, get on each others’ nerves, and jockey for status in a million small ways. There’s something relentless about its appetite for diagnosing the mild paralysis and deadening melancholy of the everyday. The ennui is broken up by little escapades from the world of Mr. Dangerous, or catalogues of Amy’s romantic past, or surreal interludes (my favorite was the one of Amy eating ice cream, and in turn being devoured by it).

Near the end, when Amy begins to wake up from her stasis and take action in her life again, even though the actions are small―they’re realistic and bold in her own way, and it feels like an earned victory. The art, as always with Paul, is dead-pan, dead-on, sometimes depressingly realistic, yet somehow adventurous and bold and emotionally generous. I loved Life With Mr. Dangerous.

But don’t take my word for it: Life With Mr. Dangerous has already been selected by Amazon.com as one of their Best Books of the Year So Far, and has even made it onto the The New York Times Bestseller list. The kid is going places!

Paul will be at the Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln Ave in Chicago) tonight, Thursday June 30, from 7:30-9:00 pm, for an author discussion and signing of the book. I will be there. So should you!