Shadows In Black and White
By Bill Kohlhaase
The five stories in Leah Hayes’ hard-to-categorize collection are a sort of noir fairy tale, dark parables with strange, hazy lessons, fables with a touch of the horrific. Illustrated in scratchboard (you may remember this technique from your high school art class), Hayes’ black-and-white pages carry tales of duck slaughter, incurable disease and a tunnel that leads to an ornate powder room deep under ground. Love is frustrated or frustratingly rewarded. Pregnancy is followed by death and terminal disease doesn’t terminate. Symbols—be they fish, fowl or a steel watch—carry wisdom. “Whoreson” is the story of a two-hearted man covered by hair and burdened with understanding. “Hair” tells of two sisters joined—and separated—by their shared braids. A mysterious, slightly sinister, singing nurse haunts a family history in “The Needle.” Hayes doesn’t find easy answers in experience nor do her stories turn on their fantastic premises. Instead, she finds irony in life’s joys and the difficulty with optimism. The black pages with their slightly slanted lettering and white swollen images accent these contrasts. This is dark and weirdly satisfying reading, a book that’s kept us up nights wondering what the hell?
Fantagraphic Books, paperback $14.95; www.fantagraphics.com