Revenge of the Librarians
With Revenge of the Librarians, Tom Gauld returns with another volume of witty, insightful cartoons about books, writers, and readers, following You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack and Baking With Kafka.
The humor requires a certain level of literacy, but the feeling of “getting it” is addictive, reminding us of the joy of books. Gauld’s comic strips often make readers feel clever for getting the reference or feeling better informed after reading. There’s a wonderful, warm emotion of “oh! I got that!” that nicely underlays the joke with some of these cartoons, as when he describes “guilt felt upon buying new books when you have a pile of unread ones at home” or plays off of titles by Vonnegut or Chandler.
It’s not all allusions, though, as he also takes on online abbreviations and how like Waiting for Godot some virtual meetings can be. There are also strips about intending to read but being distracted by social media. The “make your own choices” strip about what you do when you have too many books is astounding in capturing so much relatable behavior in six panels, and having it still work with multiple paths.
Several strips here reference the pandemic or lockdowns, a particular moment in history, while another favorite is timeless. That’s the one where various authors are explaining their research activities, while the murder mystery writer sits silently. Gauld has created simply illustrated examples of wordplay, a maze where different endings are different levels of success for a book, lists of title puns, and even a “random book review” die.
A reader can tell whether they’ll enjoy this book by the second comic, in which a monstrous villain (in top hat and cane) informs the young woman that “now that you are my bride, you will never leave this castle!” She doesn’t care, because he has an amazing library. Anyone who’s with her on that, who agrees that enough books and the right place to read them is all that’s needed, is the perfect audience for this.
Gauld’s simple style — often characters are silhouettes of filled-out stick figures — is compelling for being so universal. And his crosshatching gives the images a timeless feel, which matches well with the continuing, universal theme of “writers distracting themselves from writing.”
His eye for detail captures the kind of moment the reader can recognize and sympathize with. That detail carries through the physical volume, from the gold foil cover touches to the fake library check-out card in an envelope under the front cover. Revenge of the Librarians is amusing for anyone who loves books.
(Review originally posted at Good Comics for Kids.)