Title: A Wild Ride Through the Night
Author: Walter Moers
Rating: 4/5 stars
Some of you may or may not remember, but a couple of months back I had found a copy of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with the accompanying Gustave Doré illustrations? Well, much to my delight, last weekend I stumbled across Walter Moers' A Wild Ride Through the Night. I'd heard about this book, but had had a terrible time locating a copy anywhere. Cut to last weekend, and I'm standing in the Borders Outlet and discover a pile of them for $4 each. I was ecstatic! Well, it turns out the reason I haven't been able to find a copy is because it hasn't been released in the States yet (September something, I think) and this is a UK edition (it is priced £16.99).
Walter Moers' A Wild Ride Through the Night is a very clever book. Moers takes 21 of Doré's illustrations and uses them to create a story of how Doré grew up to became the artist that he did. The illustrations are taken from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Orlando Furioso, The Raven, Don Quixote, Legend of Croquemitane, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Paradise Lost, and the Bible. While the story can seem a little simplistic in some parts and rather contrived in others, but remember, he's needing to create a story to fit around previously created works of art.
The idea works well. We meet Doré as a young boy, who happens to be captaining his own ship, which is being chased down by Siamese Twin Tornadoes. The ship is destroyed, his crew scattered to the heavens by the storm, and Death and his sister, Dementia, are waiting to take his soul. Doré strikes a deal with Death. If he is able to accomplish 6 tasks (such as traversing a forest filled with evil spirits while bringing as much attention to himself as possible; and bringing Death a tooth from the Most Monstrous of all Monsters).
You can tell that Moers spent a great deal of time in choosing just the right illustrations to use to create the story, as it all flows nicely together and they all work well as plot points. Moers will usually give a description in the story of what is happening in the accompanying illustration, which comes in handy, as there is usually so much happening in a Doré illustration, I found it very helpful to have a "map" as to the action going on in the illustration, and I noticed things in the drawing that I don't think I would have noticed before. It is a fairly fast read, but it does raise some interesting ideas about time, death, life and the purpose of life. Overall, an enjoyable little book.