Change comes to us all.
It’s hard to read this beautifully styled work and not be struck immediately by the fable aspect. Arthur De Pins certainly wants us to identify with his protagonist, little crustaceans, and, on the surface, that seems to be the thrust of the book. But, as you continue to read, we are presented with correlations in many species (including our own) that seem to suffer under a similar, if not identical, obstacle. There’s a real beauty to the storytelling in this volume, and it was a pleasure to read.
The Box Crab, a creature that nature has endowed with a particular trait, can move about in only one path. Now, it can go backward and forward along that path but can never make a turn, or even rotate to see behind itself. Condemned to an existence of scuttling back and forth over its own footprints, forever the crabs do not even name themselves, as meetings between these creatures is so rare there doesn’t seem to be a point. This is the world that De Pins has laid out for us, and where we find our story taking shape.
De Pins seems to be rallying for the little guy, wherever the story focus takes us. There aren’t a lot of overtones or hiding the comparisons, in fact the climax of the collection is preceded by a sequence that removes the animal from the fable and puts one unfortunate person under the glass. There’s a great sense of humor in this work, as well, especially in my favorite moment of a crab born between two very close rocks, a gag of Chekov or Beckett’s caliber at the least, fanning all over the existential angst.
The artwork seems pulled from the era our story takes place, with simplified shapes and colors to turn us back to the ’60s. And, when we see people, we can be nowhere but France (so they keep saying they’re on the Riviera, but when you see the swimwear and styles, there’s no doubting it). There’s a beauty to it, like ads taken life well after their time, a nostalgic haze that gives us another layer of separation from the story and us, but one that feels placed for the benefit of those not wanting to be upset, though a thin veil it is.
The total package is something very worth witnessing, and I’m excited that this is just the first of a few volumes, as the cliffhanger at the end is nothing short of spectacular, placed just beyond the point where you think you’ve found all the change you can expect. The narrative is structured wonderfully toward this end, and the payoff is quite excellent.
If you’re a sucker for Pixar movies and Dr. Seuss, this book is right up your alley (not in the rhyming Seuss way, but more of the ability to look at the world through the wrong end of the telescope and showing us what’s really there). Jump on in, the water’s fine.
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