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Sunday Book Review: "Carnival" and "Alteration"

Every so often I like to pick up a book that isn't the sort of thing I usually bother with. Sometimes it's a waste of my money and other times it's worth it. "Carnival" and "Alteration" by Toronto artist Stef Lenk are two such graphic shorts.

Looking at them, I had the feeling that I'm not the intended audience. (This makes reviewing them a bit difficult.) Thinking that these were intended for crafty, sensitive women, I procured the opinion of the emo girl I work with. She described Stef Lenk's work as "weird and ominous" and the sort of thing that she would draw, if she could draw, which she can't.

Neither story has any words. Rather they are a series of drawings featuring the same female protagonist on an inner journey, often pitted against the same faceless figures, who look like they might be formed out of canvass bags. Lenk's tactile style prefers the realistically rendered strange to the cartoonish. Her imagery always has an element of the unknown threat. Both books are not quite nightmares but are odd and disconcerting, little dreams.

Out of the two, I liked Carnival. The nameless protagonist takes a little heart doll to a bizarre carnival. Neither hilarity nor terror ensues, but I was left feeling that something bad was always about to happen or that something important was about to be realized. To find out what does occur, you'll just have to buy them.

They're reasonably priced and available at a few stores in Toronto so paying for or finding them shouldn't be difficult. The only question is what to do with these strange things once you have them. I'm keeping mine on the coffee table.


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