Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #126: Everybody Dies by Ken Tanaka and David Ury

I have to admit: I really don't know what to say about this darn thing.

Apparently the main author, Ken Tanaka, is a "YouTube sensation" -- and typing that, then admitting I've never heard of him, makes me feel indescribably old -- and his co-author David Ury is a character actor who dies a lot on TV shows. And they clearly thought the infamous children's picture book Everybody Poops was ripe for a parody, because they've created something that is very much like a parody of that book: Everybody Dies: A Children's Book for Grown-ups.

The joke, I think, is that books for kids avoid death and sadness, which is precisely a hundred and eighty degrees wrong: picture books, admittedly, aren't as bad as the YA novel when it comes to wallowing in the death of a dog (of the death of a mother, or the death of a father, or the death of a best friend, or the death of most of industrial civilization), but there's a hell of a lot of messages about death and divorce and alcoholism and chronic disease and even less likely travails on those shelves as well, for anyone that takes the time to look.

I could be wronging this book: maybe Tanaka and Ury do know that there's a lot of death and woe in kid-lit, and made Everybody Dies to be a quirky take on that universe. But with its deliberately crude art and its simple sentences, Everybody Dies certainly looks to be saying something entirely different.

Everybody Dies is a quick read, and will be a great conversation-starter if you leave it on your coffee table. I think it's shallow and not particularly funny, but there's no arguing about taste: Tanaka is already quite popular, and his fans will like this, and they certainly won't be alone.

But I have to end as I began: I don't get it, and I was left wondering if Everybody Dies made more sense considered as an art project than a conventional book.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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