Book Review: David Bowie Retrospective and Coloring Book, Mel Elliott (2016)

Friday, December 16th, 2016

A little on the plain side.

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

Like many ’80s kids, my first encounter with David Bowie was the 1986 film Labyrinth. Along with Heathers and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I devoured it over and over on a loop; one year, I even dressed as Jareth for Halloween. (Or tried to, anyway. My makeup game wasn’t exactly on point.) Whereas the vast majority of my childhood favorites haven’t held up so well over the years, Labyrinth is one of the notable exceptions.

As I grew older, I also became immersed in Bowie’s music, thanks to my dad. It wasn’t until I became an adult, though, that I began to fully appreciate Bowie’s influence on pop culture, whether by challenging gender norms, offering a more fluid vision of sexuality, or confronting racism in the music industry. Bowie’s death at the beginning of the year is just one of many catastrophes that would make 2016 one of the worst years in recent memory.

Mel Elliott’s David Bowie Retrospective and Coloring Book celebrates Bowie’s life, in all its weird glam glory. Though I’m not totally sold on the adult coloring book phenomenon – who’s got the time? – I decided to give it a try because, hey, David Bowie!

2016-11-16 - David Bowie Coloring Book - 0004 [flickr]

While I love the idea, the execution is rather so-so. Each layout features a scene from Bowie’s life on the right, accompanied by a brief summary on the left. So far so good, except: the lettering on the text is quite large and hollowed out, so that you can color it in. While this works for maybe one layout or two, the design starts to feel repetitive after awhile. Additionally, there’s very rarely a background design – either on the text-side or the portrait-side – giving the book a rather plain and un-Bowie-like feel.

I would’ve liked to have seen more variation in the presentation of the text; for example, using a regular, solid, twelve-point font in some areas would have allowed the author to go into greater biographical detail. Or just expand on the artwork. Coloring in block letters gets pretty boring after awhile. Compared to previous coloring books I’ve tried, this one’s definitely on the simple and uncomplicated side.

2016-11-16 - David Bowie Coloring Book - 0003 [flickr]

As for the retrospective, I’d assumed that it would focus primarily on Bowie’s music – but this is mostly overshadowed by his fashion. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it really just depends on your expectations and preferences.

Bottom line: the overall design isn’t really my bag, but that doesn’t mean that other Bowie fans won’t like it.

2016-11-16 - David Bowie Coloring Book - 0006 [flickr]

2016-11-16 - David Bowie Coloring Book - 0001 [flickr]

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Mini-Review: Labyrinth: One classic film, fifty-five sonnets, Anne Corrigan (2016)

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

The Nostalgia is Strong with This One

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free ebook for review through Netgalley.)

Perhaps, in childhood, you a movie saw;
the title of said film, ‘twas Labyrinth.
It told of maiden and companions four,
and featured a beguiling goblin king.
Now thirty years have passed since its release –
in stature has its reputation grown;
so much, that this enchanting fantasy
is to another generation known.
This tale (the most-beloved of my life)
I ventured to encapsulate in verse,
a true love’s labour; sonnets fifty-five,
which now you, gentle reader, may rehearse,
commemorating film in poetry –
humbly, ‘tis dedicated to Bowie.

— 4.5 stars —

So apparently the ’80s are making a comeback? As a child of the ’80s, this mostly boggles my mind; between the aesthetics (leg warmers, snap bracelets, hair bands) and the politics (Reagan; Wall Street), there isn’t a whole lot to wax nostalgic about. But while Aquanet and Hammer pants were indeed awful, there is one beacon shining through the gaudy geometric patterns: 80s movies.

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The Breakfast Club. The Goonies. E.T. Back to the Future. Pretty in Pink. Adventures in Babysitting. Gremlins. Heathers. The Last Unicorn. The Princess Bride. And, of course, Labyrinth.

I watched that movie on a loop. David Bowie. Jareth, the Goblin King. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to dance with him,* or be him. Probably a little bit of both? I dressed up as Jareth one Halloween, though thankfully there is no photographic record of this. My makeup game has never exactly been what you’d call on point. Anyway.

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I nearly fell out of my seat when I saw that someone had written a sonnet – a whole book of them! – inspired by Labyrinth. I figured it could either be really freaking great, or a total disaster. I was leaning toward the latter, actually, since poetry isn’t normally my thing. I want to like it but, more often than not, I come away with the distinct impression that it mostly just went over my head. Happily, this is not that type of poetry.

Anne Corrigan had me at the prologue. I think the exact moment she captured my heart was with the last line, wherein she dedicates the book to the late David Bowie (hallowed be thy name). And it only gets better from there.

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Corrigan’s is a faithful retelling of Labyrinth in a Shakespeare-lite sonnet form. I say “lite” because it’s much more accessible than Shakespeare – and dare I say more fun, too? Though it’s been years since I watched the film (note to self: must rectify this immediately), her sonnets instantly transported me back there: to the Bog of Eternal Stench; the tunnels underneath the labyrinth; and the castle at its heart. I remembered how much I loved Ludo and his bossy little dog-friend, Sir Didymus, keeper of the bridge. Toby, I’m still undecided on. (Crying babies aren’t any more my bag than they were thirty years ago.)

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Is this Good Poetry? I have no idea. But it’s fun, heartfelt, and guaranteed to tickle the fangirl in you. It’s the bee’s knees, the owl’s howl, Hoggle’s goggle.

Bundle it with: the 30th Anniversary edition of Labyrinth; a Jareth, Hoggle, Sarah with Worm & Ludo Funko! Pop set; and the David Bowie Retrospective and Coloring Book to make a pretty rad gift pack for yourself or a Bowieligious friend.

* I was eight, okay. Give me a break!

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)