Reading JDW‘s intricate little collection of stories about a small town and the covey of strange characters that haunt it, I was initially at a loss in trying to describe it. Here is this sleepy village, populated by tendancies and residents and laws worthy of a strange, pleasant dream. The inanimate shake with life. The episodes are farcical, but at the edge of every joke or wordplay is a hint of seriousness. Or perhaps it’s the reverse. Punctuating each story is Wood’s artwork, introducing characters and places with drawings that sometimes simplify, and sometimes complicate his subjects.
Be prepared to relax your sense of reality for Woods. One of the earliest tales relates the story of chopsticks, which are the required eating utensils of the town. Local chopstick shopowner Mr. Greenjeans has an enviable collection, topped by the most beautiful set, displayed in his store window, and ogled by the townspeople. One night he leaves the store unlocked and watches from a hidden locale to see what the people will do. Only one checks the door, Belle, the woman he wishes for unrequitedly. She takes the chopsticks, and Mr. G turns her in, with a quiet twist to his heart. Strange and poignant. Perhaps as if Garrison Keillor recalled something of Murakami’s dreams in the morning.
I surprised myself by going back and reading several passages a second time, which I don’t generally do. You might try it once.