The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy & Other Stories
by Tim Burton, fantasy (1997)
William Marrow & Co, $20.00, ISBN 0-68815-681-9


As the director and the visionary behind movies like Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas - movies that ennoble freaks and outsiders - Tim Burton writing about macabre poetry about freaks should be a great experience, right?

Uhm, not really. The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy & Other Stories is a collection of amusing but shockingly sadistic poetry from a man well-known for his stories of triumphant outsiders. It is as if all of Mr Burton's pent-up anger at society at large is released in an ugly explosion to result in this book.

What is soon obvious is that every freak and alien in his poems all meet grisly ends. And I am expected to laugh at that. The Oyster Boy in question ends up being eaten by his father to help the latter's Wonky stand at attention. There's a Mummy Boy whose head is split open by eager kids at a birthday party; they thought his head was the - oh, I still feel sick thinking about it. A robotic boy - a result of his mother's "unholy alliance with a kitchen appliance" - ends up the town dustbin. And there's more grisly fates and cruel endings for all the poor, misshapen, alienated, and ugly populating this book.

If I'm paranoid, I may just suspect that the author is a fake and he is just like all the sneering, ignorant pigs of society instead of the Clive Barker of movies, one who stand up and declare that freaks are humans too.

As it is, I am reminded of a tale by Aesop, the one where a group of boys stone a frog to death for the glee of it. I feel just like one of those boys when I finish this slim volume of poetry. After a while, the callous cruelty overwhelms whatever amusement I feel. Excuse me, I need to donate some old clothes to the Salvation Army to clear my conscience.

Rating: 70


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