Good Faeries/Bad Faeries: Froud is EverywhereBrian Froud's coffee-table book Good Faeries/Bad Faeries contains brilliant illustration stretching the human form into woody, leafy, flowery and other naturalistic, inhuman shapes. Froud's great talent for tripping lightly over the boundary between our world and the woodsy makes the visual experience of looking at Good Faeries/Bad Faeries a delight. This is no surprise: Froud is the visual genius behind the design for movies like Labyrinth and the Dark Crystal; we should expect and we do receive visual genius here.
But alas, this book contains words as well, words that must be read. Where Froud's paintbrush sweeps deftly across the page, his writing foxtrots like an empress dowager.
The central premise of this book is that Faeries really are real, blossoming out of Brian Froud's head, given reality through the power of Froud's ego, excuse me, imagination: "The faeries I draw are a spontaneous manifestaion of my relationship with the world. A normally invisible domain is given form first of all in my sketchbooks. Faerie faces emerge from the blank white pages as if out of a mist. A few loose random squiggles are drawn, and suddenly a complete personality appears, demanding attention and a name."
Froud writes navel-gazing passages making the same point repeatedly in the text. The point seems to be that faeries are the manifestation of Froud's creativity and that the deepness of Froud's creative process lends them a consequential reality. This idea is interesting to the extent that one is interested in Brian Froud's head.
For me, living outside Brian Froud's head, the claim seemed to be an attempt to slap something greater onto a set of nifty illustrations. But without great stories to provide a meaningful context to his art, the text tends to pretty transparently display either Froud's thoughts on a picture he drew or Froud's own view of the non-faerie world. This view is often clumsy in its directness. For example, the "Bigot Bogey" "leaps from nowhere with sharp talons and stiff fingers clutching its victims' back, riding them, urging them to spout intransigent dogma." The cure for the Bigot Bogey? We must realize that "everything is connected and we are all a part of one another." Get it?
Such clumsy styling reminds us that the book isn't really about a realm called Faerie, it's about the expressions and ponderings of a talented artist. Why, it's just as a little author faerie whispered in my ear: "Remember to suspend your disbelief," then made a squishy sound as I put my finger in to dislodge the imp. The plainly self-referential quality spoils the otherworldly fantasy of Faery. I don't want the author to remind me that faeries are just made up; that makes reading the book no fun.
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