Cute meets creepy in about all Burton's productions, as you probably know. He has made many many movies that goths hold dear, like Sleepy Hollow, The Nightmare Before Christmas and so on. I do some research on the authors and illustrators whose work I present in my reviews but I do not want to write their biography or anything. I wish to concentrate on the actual book. This is partly because even though a work that is reviewed is creepy and goth-y, the author of it might not be that goth-y and their other works might not be goth-y at all.
When I started to read the collection my first thought was "oh my, these stories are quite grotesque!" PI guess this partly happened because I am writing my master's thesis of grotesque and for the last four months I have have been reading research on the subject. Someone might say that I see grotesque in places it should not be! Even though I might be extra well tuned for grotesque, I still regard my perception reliable and that this book of Burton is grotesque in a most delightful way. The grotesqueness is the biggest reason why I think this collection of stories is suitable for Creepy Reads Review.
Some of the poems in Burton's collection of stories are really sad yet there is a hint of humor that corrupts the poem and makes it rather grotesque, like in the previous photo a story of a boy with nails in his eyes. The illustration has more gore than most of the pictures but it still provokes to laugh.
Instead of being that funny, some of the stories are just disturbingly bizarre, like "The Girl Who Turned into a Bed". Unmentioned narrating voice tells about a girl who starts to turn into a bed after picking some plants, her head swells and her organs became a mattress. Best of all is the last comment on the tragic metamorphosis:
The narrating voice and the whole event gets really grotesque thanks to this practical and heartless comment. It takes the whole story over the top, making it extreme.It was so terribly strangethat I started to weep.But at least after thatI had a nice place to sleep.
The title poem of the little Oyster Boy reflects well the rest of the collection. Oyster Boy is just a victim, a boy who was born being half oyster, half human. His parents resent him, their sex life dies and in the end his father eats him since this was proposed by a doctor:
Then there is a scene of burial that is banalized by the parents and the narrator. The parents hardly grief in front of the remains of their child and decide they'll try to get another, hopefully normal child.The doctor diagnosed,"I can't be sure,but the cause of the problem may also be the cure.They say oysters improve your sexual powers.Perhaps eating your sonwould help you do it for hours!"
Most of the characters, or should I say subjects of the poems, are sad little kids who are shun by others. Of coarse almost equal amount of the kids are someway twisted, a bit devilish children. They too often encounter a pathetic demise.
I personally think that "Jimmy, the Hideous Penguin Boy" is the most heart-breaking tale in Burton's collection, though at the same time it brought a little distressed smirk on my face when I read it. That is typical for grotesque stories, they make people laugh unwillingly, little disoriented. I believe the reason why Jimmy makes me smile awkwardly is because it is in the same collection with the more humoristic poems. I get this horizon of expectation, I anticipate it to be funny but it turns out to be just sad and disturbing. The most awful thing about it is that the poor little Jimmy does not even get a proper rhyme!
Jimmy, the Hideous Penguin Boy
That's it, the whole poem! And beside it is this really depressing picture of little Jimmy. Need I say that I love this story? It gets a strong reaction and shows how reading starts to mold the readers expectations."My name is Jimmy,but my friends just call me'the hideous penguin boy.'"
Another one of my favorites is "Mummy Boy", which is one of the longest poems. It tells the story of a boy who is a mummy, although his parents are normal people. He is not that nice to other people and is therefore shunned out but in the end he finds a mummy dog to be his friend. Unfortunately on a walk with the dog Mummy Boy is mistaken as a piñata with tragic consequences.
As I have mentioned in the beginning, I have done research on grotesque and I can say with some conviction that this collection of stories in the form of poetry is grotesque. The collection is quick to read but still very entertaining. Grotesque has a tendency to crawl under reader's skin, making the reading experience delightful yet disturbing.
There are 23 stories in The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories and I have referred to only five so there are plenty of stories to be discovered, if you get your hands on a paperback like mine or another edition!