Friday , October 22 2021
Cover Library

Book Review: ‘Library’ by Dumontier and Farber from Drawn+Quarterly

Library by Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber from Drawn+Quarterly presents a whole reading room’s worth of fictional titles that delight and intrigue. Dumontier and Farber, both founding members of the Royal Art Lodge, have been working together for years creating art that is on display in numerous galleries in Canada and abroad. They frequently juxtapose images with text, giving both the visceral emotion of a raw visual, such as a flower, and further meaning in abstract words. This combination flourishes in Library, where every page shows books that the reader will wish were real.

Library by Dumontier and Farber

Library is a 1:1 recreation of paintings showcasing books that do not actually exist. Some pages focus on a single title, often showing cover details such as a man with a broom on Just looking for some dust to sweep. Other pages bring forth six or nine books, all arranged in blocks to let the reader’s eye skim from one to the next just as they would on a shelf or tabletop. Books stand or lie flat, and many of them are open to hint at the pages inside, even though they are unwritten.

Each book in Library is unique not only in its form but in its title. The ones that stand out most at first are the jokes, such as “I’m at a Loss for Words” Stories that would likely be a shocking or hilarious collection of anecdotes that would leave the reader as at a loss as the writer collecting them. The Librakery has Books and Pies sounds like it could be a fun read much as it would a fun business to visit. Great truth would come from inside the nonexistent pages in books such as There’s an A on the Back, which has a big, bold “A” on the back cover. Several of the books are flat-out quirky, like My Mom Made Me out of Food.

Just as the jokey titles in Library leave the reader’s mind to create the content, so do the ones that suggest something much deeper. Everybody Liked Him, Nobody Loved Him encourages readers to think about the differences and speculate about the likable, unloved person who would be within, filling in gaps with their own experiences. Books could well be self-help or essays on the reality of the world, such as You Won’t End Up Where You Plan, but You Still Need to Plan or Fear is in Charge. Readers will best pause with each book and reflect on what it could be.

Much as it is easy to take one more lap in the bookstore, readers will want to flip back to the beginning of Library for another go. Each time, the titles will stand out differently since much of their meaning lies in the reader’s mind being prompted by the art on the page. She had Nails for my Coffin could be a great noir with a memorable femme fatale as much as it could be an autobiography reflecting on an abusive relationship. Which is it? Whatever the reader thinks at the time.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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