Baking With Kafka
Tom Gauld’s second book of collected cartoons, after You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, is Baking With Kafka. As with the previous volume, these comics are funny, all the more so for tackling literary and cultural topics.
There are plenty of daily life strips out there, where the humor comes from a shared recognition of everyday behavior, but sometimes they feel a little easy. Gauld’s work aims in a different direction. I love it in part because it entertains me and makes me feel smart at the same time.
And what better for these times, when so many group and outdoor activities are proscribed, then comics about reading, an indoor pleasure? Some of the strips satirize genres, such as the historical novel or the murder mystery or the kids’ book. Others are about the habits of readers, with several covering how readers have more books than they will ever get through. There are jokes about how stories are constructed (for example, characters get depressed over being in an experimental novel and not having names) or jokes about how the book industry works, beyond the actual writing part.
The visuals are simple, often reduced to near-icons, but well representing the fundamentals of the content. The contrast of the mundane with the high academic makes me laugh, both in the art and the content.
One of my favorite types is when modern technology interacts with the literary world, as when Town Mouse doesn’t see Country Mouse because Country Mouse made a vlog fortune, or how to simulate a used book on an e-reader, or one titled “War and Peace Clickbait”. Or when Gauld lays out categories. These strips often start reasonably but wander into craziness. Here’s a favorite:
"The Nine Archetypal Heroines" (my cartoon for Saturday's Guardian Review): pic.twitter.com/4GZPrVPUqA
— Tom Gauld (@tomgauld) May 19, 2014