Monday, April 12, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 68 (4/12) -- On the Odd Hours by Eric Liberge

It's tough to find a job if you're deaf. If you're a self-centered jerk, it can be even worse. Take Bastien, for example, the vaguely punkish-looking protagonist of On the Odd Hours. He stumbles into an internship at the Louvre museum in Paris, working under another deaf man, Fu Zhi Ha, as a night guard.

In Liberge's fictionalized Louvre, the museum has a very specific job for one deaf night watchman at a time: he plays drums and other percussion instruments to bring the works of art to life according to a very particular schedule -- and only during the odd hours of the night. (As opposed to the even hours of the night.)

Bastien is pugnacious both towards Fu Zhi Ha -- insisting that he doesn't believe in this supernatural tomfoolery -- and towards his unnamed deaf girlfriend, who is annoyed that he blew off a serious internship she went out of her way to get him to take this Louvre job that he never bothers to make sound plausible to her. (He also hits her, which makes her immediately kick him out.)

Perhaps Bastien is meant to be an angry young man, or tormented and oppressed by living in the world of the hearing, but he comes across as a violent, petulant creep. His major emotion is disgust; whatever he's doing and wherever he is at the moment, he hates that. And so the reader begins to daydream about large statues falling on Bastien's fatuous shaven head and putting all of us out of his misery.

On the Odd Hours doesn't have the shape of a "ne'er-do-well discovers His True Calling" story, nor that of a normal man who falls into a supernatural world. There's no reason for Bastien to want this job, and he doesn't come across on the page as actually wanting it -- he just, perhaps, hates it slightly less than the entire rest of the world.

Liberge's art is dense and mostly monochromatic, with strikingly photorealistic characters and backgrounds. The pages get difficult to follow, though, as his palette of greys struggles to encompass the dozens of famous works of art on top of large crowds and details of architecture. But On the Odd Hours is definitely more entertaining to look at than to read.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: The New Pornographers - All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth
via FoxyTunes

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