Thursday, February 16, 2023

Revenge of the Librarians by Tom Gauld

If I have this right, Tom Gauld cartoons regularly about books for The Guardian and about science for New Scientist. He also does original books - picture books like The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess and graphic novels like Mooncop - and miscellaneous cartoons that appear miscellaneous places, but those are his two big main outlets.

Revenge of the Librarians, as its title implies, collects book cartoons from The Guardian - it's the follow-up to Baking With Kafka and, before that, You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack. It was published in the fall of 2022, containing about a hundred and fifty Guardian cartoons from the previous three or four years. (None of them are dated, but they appear weekly,'s at least three years, if they all appear in order, and collections are rarely that precise and organized.)

Gauld's earlier work in this vein was mostly timeless - he ranges across literary genres and styles at whim, to make erudite and informed jokes from writers as disparate as Tolkien, Austen, and Chandler - but this one has a whole bunch of "oh, gosh, we're all locked down now, aren't we? Plenty of enforced book-reading time!" cartoons, of various flavors, which peg its 2020-ness very closely. Those are still fairly timely now, but they may seem quaint - oh, how I hope they will seem quaint! - in twenty or thirty years.

Otherwise, this is a deceptively large - the book is small-format, but Gauld is a wordy cartoonist, especially when cartooning about books - collection of witty and informed strips, all more or less in that old classic multi-panel "daily strip" format, about all the things related to books: authors, editors, genres, libraries, bookshops, readers, classics, clichés, and so on. If you like any substantial subset of "books," you will find a lot in here to laugh at. And Gauld's precise, usually minimalist art is a joy as well. So go read it.

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