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the Complete Review
the complete review - comics


Baking With Kafka

Tom Gauld

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To purchase Baking With Kafka

Title: Baking With Kafka
Author: Tom Gauld
Genre: Comics
Written: 2017
Length: 160 pages
Availability: Baking With Kafka - US
Baking With Kafka - UK
Baking With Kafka - Canada
En cuisine avec Kafka - France
In cucina con Kafka - Italia

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Our Assessment:

B+ : good fun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Devoir . 21/10/2017 Fabien Deglise
Publishers Weekly . 3/7/2017 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "En 160 pages, le jeune illustrateur poursuit sa quête de sens dans un monde perturbé et pose un regard délicieusement critique, autant sur la création littéraire et la vente de livres -- un de ses sujets de prédilection --, que sur une société qui se perd dans son obsession pour le divertissement, dans la superficialité des choses ou dans l’aseptisation des discours et forcément des rapports humains." - Fabien Deglise, Le Devoir

  • "The art is dominated by shadowy stick figures that inhabit often complex spaces, which somehow makes it all the more droll." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Baking With Kafka collects mainly literary-themed comics by Tom Gauld, most first published in The Guardian and The New Yorker.
       The glossy, often single-frame -- and rarely extending to more than four frames -- cartoons are presented in muted colors. The human figures often take only the very simplest shapes -- entirely black, the head just a dot or circle, with a sort of conical shape for a torso and only lines for legs (and, when they're included, arms); when there are faces, they are often extremely basic -- only dot-eyes and maybe a nose. Not that Gauld can't draw more realistically: some figures are more conventional -- but these are mainly a variety of animals, imaginary creatures, or humans in some sort of costume. The minimalist style and renderings, of fairly simple scenes, are appropriate for the contrast- and text-focused cartoons, in which print/text often takes up half the space in the comic. Even illustrations that appear dense at first tend to be unfussy and focused -- such as the crammed bookshelf-dominated room in which one figure asks the other: "Have you seen my Kindle anywhere ?"
       Gauld plays a lot with juxtaposition, taking and twisting literary commonplaces or cliché in unusual circumstances, often out-of-their-time, in some future, past, or different place. So also he suggests 'Jaws Reboot Possibilities' -- six variations -- or the clever: 'Samuel Beckett's Sitcom Pitches'. There are a variety of tech fixes and futuristic advances (of sorts), such as: 'Keyboard Shortcuts for Novelists', which instantly change the text (including the useful: "Find and fill plot holes"), and there's a good deal of new twists on the old using present-day circumstances, such as "War and Peace Clickbait', offering six variations of just that. Some just skewer the present-day literary industry as is: a sequence of suggestions for 'Promotional Stickers for Novels' ranges from "Unputdownable" to the more realistic: "Occasionally-putdownable".
       Occasionally, the ideas are better than the execution -- the dry title: 'J.G.Ballard's Books for Children Were not a Success' is hard to top by any actual suggested examples (as is also the title-comic) -- or the humor is far too forced -- 'Some Unfortunate Errors in the New James Bond Novel' includes the complaint that: "Bond's weapon of choice is the Walther PPK, not 'the Nerf Super Soaker Max'", while an overly-specialized bookstore (or library) has huge shelves in categories such as: "Cookbooks by dog-owning atheists". But there's more hit than miss here, and the understated graphics nicely support the often dry humor, from 'Jonathan Franzen Says No' to characters complaining about their author not sticking to a genre, to how a sex scene is seen by everyone from the participants to the reader.
       Gauld also nicely uses graphs and examples -- signs, book-covers, etc. --, including the wonderful color-coded variation of a guide to 'My Library' (with books identified as everything from "Pretend I've read" to "Purely for show" and "Wish I hadn't read").
       All in all, an attractive, fun collection, with some very funny stuff.

- M.A.Orthofer, 11 November 2017

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Baking With Kafka: Reviews: Tom Gauld: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Comic-strip-artist Tom Gauld was born in 1976.

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© 2017 the complete review

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