Thursday, July 30, 2009

Monsters by Klaus Haapaniemi

I found this book on the clearance cart at Broad Street Books in Middletown, CT. For a mere $1 I bought it and this little gem was mine. It really is a very "sweet" book, like a piece of candy. Colorful, with a hard shell and rounded corners. I was delighted by the fanciful illustrations inside and that is primarily why I bought it.

Monsters is a small collection of illustrations by Finnish illustrator Klaus Haapaniemi. Sprinkled among the illustrations are little blocks of text written by Finnish author Rosa Liksom. According to the back of the book, their illustrations and writing "[channel] the wild beauty of the Scandinavian landscape." Having never experienced the Scandinavian landscape for myself, I can't attest to their success. However, both Haapaniemi and Liksom weave a luscious world of cold and warmth, slick ice and rough sand, populated by fantastic plants and otherworldly creatures.

Overall, I think this is a beautiful little book full of fantastic illustrations. However, I was unimpressed by the main accompanying story by Rosa Liksom. The title story "Monsters" made no sense to me, even when I read it as magical realism. Each paragraph seems like a collection of haphazard descriptions, puzzle pieces that don't quite fit together. Halfway through the story a character named Ilmari appears out of nowhere and the other characters seem to disappear, as though another story has started. I thought the writing was quite beautiful at times, but it seemed to flounder alongside the illustrations, like the author was attempting to "keep up" with Haapaniemi's art. I think the pairing of art + writing might have been more successful with short poems or perhaps a series of very short stories (such as the tiny story at the end, "Tampere").

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