Breathtakingly illustrated and hauntingly written, Tales from Outer Suburbia is by turns hilarious and poignant, perceptive and goofy. Through a series of captivating and sophisticated illustrated stories, Tan explores the precious strangeness of our existence. He gives us a portrait of modern suburban existence filtered through a wickedly Monty Pythonesque lens. Whether it’s discovering that the world really does stop at the end of the city’s map book, or a family’s lesson in tolerance through an alien cultural exchange student, Tan’s deft, sweet social satire brings us face-to-face with the humor and absurdity of modern life.
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Shaun Tan has been illustrating young adult fiction and picture books for more than ten years. His brilliant wordless book, The Arrival, won The CBCA Picture Book of the Year, The NSW Premier’s Book of the Year, and the Community Relations Commission Award, and received a Special Mention at the 2007 Bologna Ragazzi Awards.
He lives in Australia.
If they are standing in the middle of the street, it’s easy enough to drive around them, as you would a piece of cardboard or a dead cat. Turning your sprinklers on will discourage them from hanging around the front of your house; loud music and smoke from barbecues will also keep them away. They are not a problem, just another part of the suburban landscape, their brittle legs moving as slowly as clouds. They have always been here, since before anyone remembers, since before the bush was cleared and all the houses were built.
Adults pay them little attention. Young children sometimes dress them in old clothes and hats as if they were dolls or scarecrows, and are always scolded by parents, whose reasons are unclear. ‘Just don’t,’ they say sternly.
Some older boys take great delight in beating them with baseball bats, golf clubs, or whatever is at hand, including the victim’s own snapped-off limbs. With careful aim a good strike will send the head — a faceless clod of earth — flying high into the air. The body remains passively upright until smashed to splinters between heels and asphalt.
This can go on for hours, depending on how many the boys can find. But eventually it stops being amusing. It becomes boring, somehow enraging, the way they just stand there and take it. What are they? Why are they here? What do they want? Whack! Whack! Whack!
The only response is the sound of dead branches falling from old trees on windless evenings, and random holes appearing in front lawns, dark sockets where clods of earth have been removed during the night. And sure enough there they are again, standing by fences and driveways, in alleyways and parks, silent sentinels.
Are they here for a reason? It’s impossible to know, but if you stop and stare at them for a long time, you can imagine that they too might be searching for answers, for some kind of meaning. It’s as if they take all our questions and offer them straight back: Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want?
The Nameless holiday
The nameless holiday happens once a year, usually around late August, sometimes October. It is always anticipated by children and adults alike with mixed emotion: it’s not exactly festive, but still a celebration of sorts, the origin of which has been long forgotten.
All that is known are the familiar rituals: the laying out of one’s most prized possessions on the bedroom floor; then choosing one special object — exactly the right one — and carrying it carefully up a ladder to the roof and leaving it under the TV aerial (already decorated with small shiny things such as chocolate wrappers, old CDs, and the tops off tubs of yoghurt, licked clean and threaded with string, tied with special slip-knots).
Then there is the traditional midnight picnic in the backyard, front lawn, or any place with a good view of one’s own roof — across the street if necessary, which is why families sometimes gather by the roadside on blankets. Here are born fond memories of freshly baked gingerbread crows, hot pomegranate juice as tart as a knife and small plastic whistles, inaudible to the ears of both humans and dogs. Not to mention all that excited chatter and giggling, all that polite shushing, everyone struggling to observe the convention of silence.
Those who stay awake long enough are rewarded by a momentary sound that never fails to draw a sharp intake of breath — the delicate tapping of hoofs descending on roof tiles. It is always so startling, so hard to believe at first, like a waking dream or a rumour made solid. But sure enough, there he is, the reindeer with no name: enormous, blind as a bat, sniffing under the TV aerial with infinite animal patience. He always knows exactly which objects are so loved that their loss will be felt like the snapping of a cord to the heart, and it’s only these that he nudges tenderly until they become hooked onto his great antlers. The rest he leaves alone, leaping gracefully back up into the cool darkness.
What a remarkable, unnameable feeling it is, right at the moment of his leaping: something like sadness and regret, of suddenly wanting your gift back and held tight to your chest, knowing that you will certainly never see it again. And then there is the letting go as your muscles release, your lungs exhale, and the backwash of longing leaves behind this one image on the shore of memory: a huge reindeer on your roof, bowing down.
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Descripción McClelland & Stewart. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: Fair. Dust Cover Missing. Nº de ref. de la librería G0771084021I5N01
Descripción McClelland & Stewart. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: VERY GOOD. Light rubbing wear to cover, spine and page edges. Very minimal writing or notations in margins not affecting the text. Possible clean ex-library copy, with their stickers and or stamp(s). Nº de ref. de la librería 2822436294
Descripción McClelland & Stewart. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: VERY GOOD. Light rubbing wear to cover, spine and page edges. Very minimal writing or notations in margins not affecting the text. Possible clean ex-library copy, with their stickers and or stamp(s). Nº de ref. de la librería 2832407601
Descripción McClelland & Stewart, 2008. Estado de conservación: Good. First Edition. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Nº de ref. de la librería GRP38175187
Descripción McClelland & Stewart, 2008. Estado de conservación: Very Good. First Edition. Former Library book. Great condition for a used book! Minimal wear. Nº de ref. de la librería GRP63415887
Descripción McClelland & Stewart, 2008. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: Fine. Estado de la sobrecubierta: No dustwrapper as issued. First Edition. Signed first Canadian edition of author's first collection of stories, fables and new (sub)urban myths told in both words and his uniquely fabulous illustrations. The Canadian edition differs from the Australian and the US versions by having the title page stamp (actual illustration of a stamp with Eric in a teacup) with Canada 2c rather than Australia 2c price. The author told us that the Canadian publisher had requested this change and he acceded to the request, but strongly doubted that he would do anything similar for other countries, making this an exceptional copy. Sort of an incidental in-joke, given one of the stories is titled No Other Country. Signed with gold ink and a red fingerprint flower. Signed. Nº de ref. de la librería 1607030003
Descripción Hardcover. Estado de conservación: Fine. Estado de la sobrecubierta: Fine. 1st Edition. A lovely crisp, clean copy. Nº de ref. de la librería 000819
Descripción McClelland & Stewart, 2008. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: Good. First Edition. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. May not contain Access Codes or Supplements. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Nº de ref. de la librería 0771084021