The Ghoulish Book of Weird Records

The Ghoulish Book of Weird RecordsSynopsis: Come out, come out wherever you are, you closet ghouls. Al last the book you sickies have been waiting for. No stone has been left unturned in bringing it to you. An all-true collection of grisly records guaranteed to chill the cockles of even the warmest heart. So get with it, guys and ghouls. Hurl yourself bodily into… The Ghoulish Book of Weird Records.

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The Ghoulish Book of Weird Records, by Al Jaffee 7.5

I honestly don’t know exactly how to describe this pocket oddity. I picked it up at the bookstore of my local library for 50 cents based on Al Jaffee’s name alone. Jaffee is integral to the look and humour of Mad magazine, having been in each issue except one since 1964. He’s so ubiquitous that, even though I haven’t read Mad in years, seeing his name and the book’s cover art caught my attention.

‘The Ghoulish Book of Weird Records’ is a collection of myriad turn-of-the-century and 19th century news items that are all unusual in their own ways. But what makes them stand out is that Jaffee gave each one a humourous “record” category, such as “The First Underwater Train Ride” or “The Unhappiest 100th Birthday”. Obviously they are not actual records; Jaffee’s just having fun.

To make each bit even more appealing, he added some of his own art to reflect each story. His cartoon style is distinctive: it’s slightly cartoony but is composed of clean well-defined lines, with his characters donning a slightly rubbery look, as though they were inflated. I’m not sure how to articulate that accurately, but he’s undoubtedly one of the best, a legend.

Anyway, this book wasn’t nearly as funny as I expected it to be. For one, I found the titles (or “records”) often only tenuously linked to the actual story. That was disappointing to me. Secondly, I thought that the stories themselves were of the mundane or boring variety much of the time – they weren’t nearly as unique or outlandish as I would have hoped for.

So I plowed through the book slowly, over time, always enjoying the art, but not so much the rest of the content. It’s a terrific idea, and I can imagine it being absolutely hilarious, but this particular book didn’t do it for me. It’s an exceptional  novelty item, of course, and I would recommend it for any Mad magazine fan or weird ghoul’s collection, but otherwise it has little mass-appeal.

Still, I can’t help but rate it highly if only because of the concept and the way that the book was put together; it’s an appealing little oddity and I’m sure someone out there would enjoy this tremendously.

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