Saturday, December 10, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide: Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People by Douglas Coupland and Graham Roumieu

“It’s like a children’s book that you’d never let a child read,” Douglas Coupland told the Globe and Mail when talking about his most recent book. “We just wanted to do something really dark and nihilistic, really, with no social redeeming value.” His plan worked.

It has, it seems, been that kind of year, what with the incredible success of Adam Mansbach’s Go the F*ck to Sleep, which has been on bestseller lists all over North America since before the book’s debut last June. However Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People (Random House Canada) is a slightly different -- though related -- animal. Seven humorous stories (I can’t bring myself to quote the jacket copy and call them “pants-peeingly funny” because it somehow makes them seem less funny than they are) put us more in mind of Tim Burton (think Edward Scissorhands or Alice in Wonderland) than Mansbach’s cheerful one-off.

Here Coupland’s dark wit is teamed with Graham Roumieu’s cheerfully depraved illustrations. Together they bring us some unforgettable characters in some weirdly demented stories. A sample of the titles: “Donald, the Incredibly Hostile Juice Box,” “Sandra, the Truly Dreadful Babysitter,” “Hans, the Weird Exchange Student,” “Brandon, the Action Figure With Issues.” I could go on, but you get the idea.

Coupland is, of course, the wickedly funny and original mind that delivered Generation X, plus over a dozen works of fiction and non-fiction since then. Roumieu created the Bigfoot autobiographies In Me Own Words, Me Write Book and I Not Dead. One can only imagine that the process of creation here would have been a great deal of fun. ◊

Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.

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