Recently, I wrote of receiving The Marvels, the newest book by Brian Selznick, in the mail and being taken aback by its physical presence. It’s a beautiful book, with golden pages and an delightful cover. The book has the weight of words and drawings. I couldn’t wait to read it with my son.
I did, and I have to admit: The Marvels, though it has lots of charm, does not quite hold up to Selznick’s previous books — The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. Those books showed intricate storytelling, fusing the image elements of his books (which shine in The Marvels, too) with the text. Both were like literary puzzles for the reader to wonder about, as he brought the fictional ends together to tell a single story.
Here, in The Marvels, there is again a mystery, and things are not what they seem, but my son and I were less taken in by the story itself, for whatever reason. I won’t give the plot away, but the novel is loosely based on a real event and people, and their story of an unusual life. I was interested but not intrigued. That’s all the difference in the world, right?
I can sing long praises for his drawings, of course, because they are an art form unto itself, but I wish the story text had been stronger to hold it all together. It’s still a book worth checking out, as is anything Selznick does. It’s not bad. It’s good. But it’s not great. Given his past few books, this one just didn’t rise to my expectation level. Maybe that is me, the reader, more than him, the writer.
Until next book …
Peace (on the pages),