Review: The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy, and Other Stories, by Tim Burton

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From breathtaking stop-action animation to bittersweet modern fairy tales, filmmaker Tim Burton has become known for his unique visual brilliance — witty and macabre at once. Now he gives birth to a cast of gruesomely sympathetic children — misunderstood outcasts who struggle to find love and belonging in their cruel, cruel worlds. His lovingly lurid illustrations evoke both the sweetness and the tragedy of these dark yet simple beings — hopeful, hapless heroes who appeal to the ugly outsider in all of us, and let us laugh at a world we have long left behind (mostly anyway). 

Firstly, let me say that I love Tim Burton’s animated movies – The Corpse Bride is a masterpiece. When I saw The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy, and Other Stories in the local book store, then, I was excited for it. It’s short – not even 130 pages – so I read it in there, and was done in twenty minutes. My opinion on it is mixed.

The book is similar in style to Alice in tumblr-Land, being a collection of short poems that range from a few pages long to only two lines. Some of the entries are continued in later poems, but for the most part they’re self-contained. Illustrations on the adjacent page help bring the stories to life. The illustrations are like something out of one of Burton’s movies: creepy, but almost cute, in a way. Be warned, though: there aren’t any happy endings in these stories. They range from the merely melancholy to the truly macabre, with very little of the lightheartedness or uplifting themes that his movies often have. It’s easy to empathise with the put-upon main characters of the poems, who are without exception outcasts and unloved. Many of them meet sad ends. The stories are bittersweet at best, and many are outright depressing. Unfortunately, they’re not very memorable – I finished it two hours ago and have to rack my memory for details. While not as bad as the afore-mentioned Alice in tumblr-Land, where I found myself forgetting the beginning of a story even as I read the end of it, these stories didn’t do much to stick in the mind.

Ultimately, the book is an okay read once, but lacks the charming atmosphere of Burton’s movies. As it’s such a quick read, I don’t recommend actually buying it – reading it in the bookstore is more than enough.

Overall rating: 3/5

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