Red as Blood, White as Clay

The Singing Bones
Shaun Tan
Allen & Unwin Children
September 2015

SingingBones_247x189_CVR.inddThe release of a new book by Shaun Tan should be accompanied by a day of national celebration. If the state of Victoria can celebrate a horse race, then it’s not too much to ask that the country as a whole take a day to wave a coloured flag for artistry and wonder. Parades would be necessary, full of papier-mâché creatures. Confetti of reds and oranges and yellows would rain from the skies as if Autumn had come all at once. There would be songs with no words, and random kindnesses between strangers. And at the end of the day, we’d sit around a giant fire and watch as stories unfolded in the shadow of the flames.

Shaun Tan can craft a story in a way that you didn’t know you needed until the manifest form of it was resting in your hand, a tangible thing that seemed to emerge straight out of the ether of endless myth rather than shaped by mortal hands. His stories are small stories (The Red Tree, The Lost Thing), and yet they speak directly to the core of human loneliness and connection. We are individuals standing in a world that is both beautiful and menacing, a shared space and yet so full of distance and emptiness. If you’ve ever felt lost in the world, chances are that Shaun Tan could help you see that being lost is something we all share, and actually there’s radiance in not knowing where you’re going. Continue reading

School Finds: The Rabbits by Shaun Tan and John Marsden

rabitsTHE RABBITS
John Marsden and Shaun Tan
Lothian Children’s Books, September 2010, RRP $17.99

‘The Rabbits’ is a picture book by Australian author and illustrator Shaun Tan and author John Marsden.  Those familiar with Tan’s work, perhaps though ‘The Lost Thing’ or ‘Tales of Suburbia’, will know that he is a genius in all respects.  Tan’s illustrations are beautiful and so detailed but the stories he weaves also explore themes and concepts central to what it is to be a modern Australian.

‘The Rabbits’ is the tale of the colonial invasion of Australia and the near eradication of those that were already here but not recognised by those arriving.  Tan and Marsden use the analogy of rabbits, representing the British colonists, and bandicoots, representing the indigenous inhabitants, to make a pointed comment on the damage done to those losing their land and way of life. Continue reading

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      Many, many years ago I enrolled in a fiction writing class at the CAE. It was the very first writing class I’d ever been to and I can’t recall if I learnt anything useful but I did learn that some people are just not very nice.