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The Ticking Hardcover – April 25, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. French's work always splits the difference between cuteness and revulsion, and her new graphic novel is both the sweetest and the most stomach-churning thing she's ever drawn. Budding artist Edison Steelhead is a grotesquely deformed boy—his eyes are on opposite sides of his head—whose mother died in childbirth. His father wants Edison to get radical plastic surgery. After Edison refuses, his father brings home a "new sister" for him, Patrice, who's a bug-eating chimpanzee in a baby-doll dress. Then things get really weird. Edison heads off to seek his fortune in the city, his father continues to try to get him to hide or change his face, and the book's point becomes less and less its plot and more French's astonishing artwork—just a small, wobbly-bordered panel or two on each page, rendered in feather-soft pencil textures. Edison's bildungsroman involves a bunch of exquisitely rendered symbolic motifs: flies, fishing lures, tweezers, dismal hotel wallpaper and some gruesomely sexual-looking geoducks. Miraculously, French keeps The Ticking's tone deadpan and charming, with laconic captions and long silent sequences—even the grossest moments are played for nervous giggles. She's an inimitable and masterful stylist, a kind of Edward Gorey who draws out the whimsical side of body-horror. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

When Edison Steelhead is born, his mother dies, and his father, seeing that Edison resembles him, flees with the newborn to a lighthouse on an islet. An occasional visitor boats over, and then his father has Edison draw a mask over his wall-eyed, earless, bald head. Once the boy goes with his father to a doctor, who proposes surgery that he says is better done sooner than later. But Edison rejects the procedure. Just after returning home, father presents Edison with "your new sister"--a chimp named Patrice. All along, Edison draws found objects: insects, cigarette butts, twists of tissue, the scars on father's head. When he grows up and leaves the islet, he illustrates a fly-fishing catalog. Exploiting the texture of the drawing paper, French defines shapes with shading more than line, and she makes Edison's drawings stylistically distinct from the narrative continuum. Proceeding, quite often without words, one or two frames per page rather than in most comics' nine-panel grids, she fashions a gem that means more with every reading. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Top Shelf Productions (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1891830708
  • ISBN-13: 978-1891830709
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,210,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Renee French, The Ticking (Top Shelf Productions, 2005)

I am sure there is someone out there-- in fact, I am sure there are a lot of someones out there-- who can read through The Ticking a few times and tell you all sorts of things about the subtext, the symbolism, and all sorts of other under-the-surface stuff about this book. I am not one of them. I'm just here to tell you that The Ticking is one of the flat-out oddest productions I have encountered in the universe of graphic literature.

Edison Steelhead's mother dies in childbirth. His father sees that Edison has inherited his own deformities, and sets about trying to get Edison plastic surgery to make him look more normal. Edison himself isn't sure about all this, and flees from the necessity of these confrontations into his career as an aspiring artist. Edison's father then brings home a sister for Edison-- Patrice, a chimpanzee, and Edison and Patrice begin down the road to siblinghood, one not smooth at the best of times. And that's just the beginning. Things get odder from there.

This is a book both amusing (how amusing you will find it depends largely on your capacity for appreciation of black humor) and horrifying, often in the same panel. French's panorama is the world of the deformed, but just as Katherine Dunn in Geek Love or Tod Browning in Freaks, French approaches her subjects with a warmth and humor that translates to the audience's ability to better relate to the book's subjects-- always a wonderful thing.

If the book has a problem, it's that it could have been longer. French's impressionist style is wonderful, and the holes that are left are done with an obvious sense of planning, but I'd still have liked to see a little more of... well, everything.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Leticia Lentini on June 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Rene french is an artist and visual poet who combines lines and shades to create a world of utter beauty surrounded by the ugliness of shadows. Her art is beautiful and the images will stay in your mind for days as you swirl with the meaning of the journey you undertake. The complexity and simplicity intertwine to leave you spell bound. Worth a read, worth a look, worth the risk if you've never had the pleasure of seeing Renee's work before.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By W. Carman on September 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an artist and visual story teller myself; this is one of those exquisite books that I wish I had done. Telling a story with words and pictures requires a fine balance. Many very wonderful stories use text to highlight pictures or pictures to highlight text. Renee French has authored one of those extremely rare books where lines between text and image blur and the story becomes even more powerful as we touch it with our eyes and experience it rather than just reading it. It was after the third reading that I was finally able to go back and enjoy the book simply on the visual level. Each panel could be enjoyed on the levels of surface, texture, pattern, and craft. The mystery and seeming simplicity of the imagery can't help but draw one in.

There are many incredible illustrators, authors, and artists out there but very few succeed in creating a unique language with their work. Ms. French has. THE TICKING reaffirms our need for master storytelling, the experience of books, and the importance of the visual as language.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dalton on July 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Renee French's book shows the beauty of the grotesque, but is it really grotesque? The ambigious pencil shading softens what could potentially be unnerving visuals, but her eye for cotton candy-like drawings brings out the beauty of Edison's Steelhead's life. Renee's drawing melts into my eyes and sweetens my sweet tooth for the poetry of comic.

ticking - A strong, tightly woven fabric of cotton or linen used to make pillow and mattress coverings.

Edison is weird and is fascinated with things just as strange as he is. He turns out to be well-adjusted as everyone else, except he has a chimp for a sister. That makes him cooler than most people. He ponders a way to change his life, his deformity, with a superficiality like a ticking...
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