Review copy provided by the publisher.
The original press release for Tales of Woe boasted that it had to be printed in Singapore because China wouldn’t touch it. The back of the book warns that “this is not Hollywood catharsis (someone overcomes something and the viewer is uplifted), this is Greek catharsis: you watch people suffer horribly, and then feel better about your own life.” The book opens with a story of a baboon sucking the brains out of a three-month-old boy. You know what you’re getting into. The book features twenty-five real-life depressing stories; some of them are fairly routine accounts of models dying of anorexia or hunting accidents, some detail overseas issues like the Asian sex trade, or Muslim/Hindu conflict in India, others deal with the black market for organs, a female Luchadore serial killer, and human beings with the worst fetish I’ve ever heard of. All of the anecdotes are taken from the modern day, so there’s no going back to pull out a Kitty Genovese. Two stories come from Alaska, which mainly seems to be an excuse for the artists to display “edgy” drawings of Sarah Palin, who has nothing to do with either story. The art, which comes from eleven artists, including Patrick McQuade, Kiki Jones, and Ralph Niese, appears sporadically throughout the book, giving it the lurid pulp appeal the publisher was going for. Not all of the art is easy on the eyes, but some of the artists are quite good. Ralph Niese is especially worth checking out. You’ll know just by reading the back cover whether or not this material actually interests you, but the book certainly stays true to its premise.