This is a totally unique and quirky book and I can honestly say that I have never come across anything similar before. When you first look at the cover and flick through the pages, it looks like a run-of-the-mill jokey coffee table sort of book that contains some cute and funny cartoons but it is not like that at all. OK, it does have some cute and funny cartoons, but rather than being just entertaining, the idea of the book is to explore groups of things and the relationships between them. It is a book to make you question how we use language and how we perceive, and it shows you a way to think outside the box, as it were. This book is not for children though, as there are some adult themes included here.
The author, Lochlann Jain, is an anthropologist and so among other things the book explores are the ways that people interact, both with objects and with each other. The book also looks at how different groups of mostly seemingly totally different things go together and it uses clever plays on words to link them. For an example, take the ‘things’ infection, beaker, committee, photograph, symphony and new year’s, these are ‘things with resolution’. It certainly makes you think as a book full of puzzles, conundrums and conceptual ideas should. Be warned though, you will probably need to use a dictionary.
There are some short essays included in Things That Art by other writers about the book, which I did read although I suppose it is not really necessary to do so, but they do help you understand a little more of what the author is aiming at.
I found this book of juxtapositions, puns and wordplay very entertaining and rewarding to read, I also like the fun style of the drawing, which goes well with the serious matter of linguistics and concepts.
Sara Boorman 4*
Things That Art: A Graphic Menagerie of Enchanting Curiosity by Lochlann Jain
University of Toronto Press 9781487570552 hbk Nov 2019