Gauld, Tom. Revenge of the Librarians. Drawn and Quarterly, 2022.180 pp. ISBN 978-1770466166 $21.99
I run our library’s Twitter feed and can always find a date-appropriate Tom Gauld literary cartoon to schedule for on TweetDeck: celebrations of authors, genres, or reimagined book titles specific to a holiday or event. Revenge of the Librarians is a collection of his comic strips, less about librarians and more about books, including the celebration of the problem of having or buying way too many. His comics have the brilliance of XKCD with a literary theme, (instead of physics) and this collection is giggle out loud funny.
Strips are a mix of stick figure and simple caricature cartoon, interspersed with flow charts, Venn diagrams idea generators, lists related to writing and literature–even a DIY holiday card and a tiny board game: Book Festival Race (die not included). Themes emerge: editors are hard to cope with, critics stink, and authors struggle to meet deadlines. He throws shade at beach books (termed “summer holiday reads”), village murder mysteries, thrillers, fantasy novels (pick out the imposter book from the His Dark Materials series: “The Obsidian Toothpick/The Iron Teapot/The Nebulous Spatula“), popular fiction and important times alike. He delivers a healthy dose of self-deprecating snark with New on Your e-Reader, featuring” personality modes that can be set to have a tone, like demanding:
For writers, he offers encouragement to authors with motivational badges (I was brave today at the editor’s!) and sample greeting cards (with deepest sympathy on your reviews, congratulations on your seventh draft) and humorous scenes like the society of literary feuds summer party, featuring sneering indifference, mutual detestation and utter loathing alongside drinks and nibbles.
Gauld’s feminist leanings are exemplars in changing masculine to feminine (Lord of the Flies becomes Lady of the Flies) and a cartoon of author Louisa May Alcott’s Jo March changing the plot of her novel at the advice of her editor: “If the main character’s a girl, make sure she’s married by the end. Or dead.” “Or both?” asks March with a smile.
My favorite cartoons are his reimaginings of classics in a variety of ways: set in the future, with female leads, etc.. I was halfway through when my 10-year-old stole it to read, and she says her favorite illustration was a conspiracy theory themed collection of alternative titles: 8 days across the world, with a cover illustration of a flat earth, made her laugh even without ever having heard of, let alone read, Around the World in 80 Days.
I bought myself the hardcover edition of #RevengeOfTheLibrarians from a gift certificate, and it has an old-fashioned sleeve and date due card on the inside flap, which made a handy bookmark. Cue the nostalgia.