Tales from the Inner City
Allen and Unwin, $32.99 pb, 209 pp, 9781760523534
It is hard to think of a more distinctive and idiosyncratic author than Western Australian Shaun Tan. Winner of the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children’s literature, Tan’s work has also been recognised by numerous awards in speculative fiction, illustration, and children’s books, including an Academy Award in 2011 (for the animated short adaptation of The Lost Thing). By sheer force of imagination and talent, Tan seems to have carved out a unique niche for himself, one that hovers between the worlds of images and words, children and adults, extravagant fantasy and the most visceral realism. In his latest book, Tales from the Inner City, Tan brings his focus to the fissure between the natural and human worlds.
Many of Tan’s previous books feature an overpowering and oppressively industrial landscape, where organic life often takes an alien, uncontrolled, and distinctly unfamiliar form. The Lost Thing (2000) hybridises an octopus/hermit crab and a teapot/steam boiler, The Red Tree (2001) grows unexpectedly from a bedroom floor, while origami birds and fish flourish in The Arrival (2006).