Sean Maher's Quality Control

Monday, April 17, 2006

APE Decompression: Burying Sandwiches

See, part of why I've been waiting to review Rob Sato's incredible Burying Sandwiches is because it's easily my favorite new book of APE 2006. But another part is that I've got almost no idea what to write about it. It's just really fucking good.

Burying Sandwiches is the tale of Janice Takeda, who "from the beginning... hadn't cared much for food." The story follows her from early childhood up through her early adulthood, wrestling the entire time with here intense dislike of eating.

We get snapshots of Janice's troubles throughout childhood, a tense anxiety building and building, until finally, at the age of nine, she determines a solution: she just plain won't eat anymore. She begins burying her lunches in a hole in the ground behind some old shed, alone and desperate.

It's at this point that the ghosts show up.

Fans of Sam Kieth's classic, The Maxx, will begin to recognize some similar motifs. Janice builds her own private life all around the ghosts, who through an especially chilling sequence prove to hold the solution to her problems with food. I'm reminded of The Outback and the blind little Isz creatures in Kieth's work. There's a level of fantasy and surrealness to the solution the ghosts provide, and this lends the second half of the story an incredible feeling of uncertainty and unpredictability, which is unusual for a story that reads - as this does - so much like a fairy tale.

A big draw for me - the factor that, fortunately, compelled me to buy the book when Molly picked it up and showed it to me - is the artwork. Sato's style is completely his own and it's fascinating. It also suits perfectly the story's unique combination of innocent imagination and stark, chilling consequence.

Every single page of this story stimulated my imagination, with just enough details left out that I could read some of my own interpretations into the tale. On one level, it's a fascinating take eating disorders, a subject in which I normally have little interst. On another level, it's about isolation, about being different from other people in ways we can't help, and what we'll do when that makes us desperate. The ending leaves me with a lot of questions, but mostly it just leaves me thinking.

I don't think I've put down a book with such a feeling of interest in quite a while.

Sato's website features several preview pages and information on distribution (including a direct link to the Last Gasp entry). I cannot recommend enough that you give it a look.


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