17 October 2013

A Grim Tale from Australia

The New York Times’s obituary for Australian criminal turned author Mark “Chopper” Read contained an eye-catching paragraph:
His children’s book, “Hooky the Cripple: The Grim Tale of a Hunchback Who Triumphs” (2002), tells of a boy who is abused by the village butcher and who, on his 21st birthday, lashes back. Illustrated with Gothic intensity by the Australian artist Adam Cullen — Hooky brandishes a bloodied knife on the cover — the book was described by a Melbourne reviewer as “curiously poetic.”
I’ve long thought that Australian children’s media played rougher than its American and British counterparts, but this seemed extreme even for the antipodes.

I found a different assessment in the Network Review of Books via something called the Australian Public Intellectual Network:
Read has turned to the seemingly unlikely genre of fairy tale, to produce what might be, nominally and controversially, considered a children’s text, although one certainly more suitable for the upper end of the juniors’ market. Adults too, as the general tenor of the work’s subtitle - The Grim Tale of a Hunchback Who Triumphs - indicates, will find here the disturbing blend of dark humour and perverse personal morality that characterises the ‘Chopper’ world-view.
I’ve therefore concluded that Hooky the Cripple merely borrows the the form of the illustrated storybook. It really belongs in the category of books made to remind adults of children’s books and sold on the basis of their authors’ celebrity.

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