Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Funny Stories and Pretty Pictures

Amy Sedaris’s book “I Like You” is not the type of book I would have expected to read for an English class. Consisting mostly of recipes and arts and crafts, it is a very visually stimulating book. I realized as I was reading that I found about half of the humor and appeal of the book simply in the images, photographs, and cartoons that filled it. They compliment the text and simultaneously employ almost exactly the same humor techniques that the text does, and one gets about just as much sense of Amy Sedaris’s quirky, mildly insane personality from the photos as from the way she writes.

The book begins with a series of letters to the reader from Amy Sedaris, each preceded by a photo of her. The first looks like a typical photo of an author posing for her book. As I read on, however, I immediately began to get a sense of what the book might be like. In the second photo, Amy is slouched and her eyelids are mostly closed. In the third she is falling out of the frame of the photo, apparently asleep. I could tell this was going to be a quirky book. Her letters expressed about the same amount of increasing absurdity as the pictures. The first letter is relatively normal—I’ll repeat, relatively—while the second adds some absurdity with her salutation of “Cordiallier,” and the third letter is simply excessive and includes the phrase “[your name here]” multiple times within the letter. These three sets of pages summed up for me the balance of amusing images and amusing comments in the book.

There is also a balance of serious recipes and serious pictures, but they are never too serious. In the step-by-step display of how to make “The Perfect Party Cake” on pages 108-109, most of the pictures are serious while toward the end they simply become ridiculous while at the same time remaining fun. This is the visual representation of her recipes. They are serious enough to instruct on how to cook a certain dish, yet they contain comments distinct to Amy’s personality. Her own personal photographs illustrate her ability to be silly and her child-like carefree personality. On a page toward the end of the book there is a picture of her in a short black wig with alien sunglasses on, and she is holding a decorated pumpkin. On the surrounding pages there are instructions on how to make a “Seeing Peanut” and “Tissue Ghosts.” Her book craftily (no pun intended) teaches the reader how to be creative while in no way straying away from the innocence of childhood, and maintaining that in a book for adults full of images one might assume should be confined to a children’s book.

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