look Ma, wings!

Adults need fairy tales - or so the publishing world has realised some time ago.

I suppose if you were to market children's books, particularly picture books, your target audience is not the young reader with no $pending power, but the anxious parent and doting aunt who will be buying the book. So it was only natural that publishers and bookstores soon packaged these books, Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" for example, to the adult reader instead, "the young at heart". These books sit at the far borders of the graphic novel world, since their wisdom and moral universe are too saccharine.

At Kinokuniya's Christmas/New Year discounts, I picked up a couple of books by Taiwan writer/illustrator Jimmy/幾米 Ji Mi. Aiyah, being a snob, I had ignored his books for a long time...until after the recent trip to Taipei. Taiwan's been in love with his dreamy, colourful children's book illustrations for several years. But since Hong Kong made these poor movie adaptations out of his Turn Left, Turn Right and The Sound of Colours, he has outgrown that island.

My favourite is this 2003 book Mr Wing (pic above is of a vinyl toy based on the book...Merchandise!). It's a meandering sort of narrative that starts with perfection and ends with... ambivalence. A guy with the perfect life (handsome, rich, talented, charming, good-natured) discovers one day that he has sprouted wings. And what seems the pinnacle of his achievements (a man so perfect he becomes an angel) quickly becomes first an irritation, then a curse to be overcome, and finally, a just a fact of a radically pared-down existence. He doesn't return to his perfect life. He doesn't get much out of it all. There's no moral to be derived and no lesson learnt. But the reader knows that he survives somehow.

posers in front of giant yoshitomo & JiMi illustrations

Maybe it's the desire for escape into a simpler world that nonetheless acknowledges the stresses of grown up life. Or maybe we all just like looking at pretty pictures...


Anonymous said…
heh actually i oso another jimmy-snob but reverse lah - i "abandoned" him after his popularity grew by mega proportion.

wonder if you caught "sound of colors - the musical" when it made its way here last jan at the esplanade. rather faithful adaptation unlike the bastardised wkw-produced film adaptation. it's nice to see some of his illustrations materialised on stage in larger than life fashion and cheer chen was perfect as the blind girl.

apparently, mr wing was also adapted for stage last year by the same people, with winston chao in the lead role. played as a doublebill with jimmy's smiling fish with faith yang as the er.... fish? not sure how that turned out.
ampulets said…
No lah, didn't catch the musical... I can't stand musicals. But if i knew it was Cheer Chen, I might have. Nah.

I still don't quite like JiMi's illustrations. They are somehow *too cute*. But I like his story ideas and the nice contrast between the restraint in his writing and the over-exuberance of his illustrations.
monk said…
i like what i see (even in the reduced format). i'm heading over to amazon with my fingers crossed, hoping it's available on the usae website.

. . . and since i knew nothing about this before reading tonight, i have no sense of whether or not he's suffered under a broader scope. i'll just have to find out for myself :)
ampulets said…
hmm i don't think you'll have much luck with amazon... if it helps, his family name is Liao.
monk said…
you're absolutely right. can't find it here :(

but the good news is that the NYT says the new Murakami will be out in english this year :)

i'll take what i can get.

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