There are no tidy endings in Bizarre Romance, the new short fiction collection by Audrey Niffenegger, with illustrations by Eddie Campbell.
Niffenegger’s stories are, as advertised, bizarre. In one, a woman inherits a house from a kindly elderly woman, and demolishes the house when she discovers something disturbing in the basement No resolution, no lessons learned.
My personal favorite in the collection is “Digging Up the Cat,” a bittersweet story about loss. A character digs up her old dead cat because her parents are moving and her mother insists that “it would be too weird to leave a box full of dead cat in the garden.” She describes in loving detail the act of removing her most recently dead cat from the freezer and adding it to the old cat’s box.
The introduction to the collection is sweet: Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell (artist) are married. They first collaborated in the early stages of dating, and realized that they worked well together, as a romantic pair and as writer/artist. Campbell’s illustrations fluidly complement Niffenegger’s work: he almost instinctively knows when to step back and let her writing speak for itself, and when to enhance it with a drawing or two.
Campbell skillfully varies his style to fit the tone of each story, with more chaotic linework to reflect a character’s inner turmoil, or loose line work to give one story about fairies an almost daydream-like quality. He matches his style to the time period too, going for a more classic painted look on a story about Muybridge’s model.
The book reminds me of a box of chocolates. There’s such a range of styles in the collection, you are bound to find one you don’t care for (no no no not the coconut) but they’re each just about a mouthful. While I liked most of the stories in this collection, a few seem strange for the sake of being strange: Niffenegger doesn’t develop the concept enough to make it truly satisfying.
The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.