Writer: Geoffrey Chaucer [adapted by Seymour Chwast]
Artist: Seymour Chwast
Published: Bloomsbury, 2011
Prior to reading this, I was vaguely familiar with The Canterbury Tales. I only knew that it was some kind of olde timey literary classic. And I had seen this inexplicably hilarious Tom Green bit [click here and hilarity ensues].
Anyway, turns out The Canterbury Tales was written in the late 1300s [waoh!] by Geoffrey Chaucer, a veritable Renaissance man [on both levels!] who started off a servant and a soldier, but upon his death [thought to be the Black Death], was well-known as a writer and a poet.
The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer's best-known piece of work, tells the story of thirty pilgrims on their way to Canterbury to get help from [the entombed] Saint Thomas regarding health issues. As they journey on their motorcycles [a change made by the adapter, I'm assuming, and not an amazing display of precognition by Chaucer], they tell tales to pass the time. Some of the stories draw from Greek mythology, some from Arthurian mythology, some from Biblical mythology, as well as historical figures. Some even feature talking animals; I had no idea the character of Chanticleer, the singing rooster, originated here!
Chaucer acts as narrator to the overall story, as well as one of the travelers, and provides amusing running commentary on the framed narratives being told.
Some of the tales have “moral” lessons, but some are devoid of any moral conclusion whatsoever, or feature a really weird, nonsensical version of “happily ever after”. I'm not sure how much of the confusing stuff is due to the source material or any changes made. Probably both.
There is clearly pro-christian propaganda at some points and some pretty anti-woman sentiment, which is somewhat telling of the times [Chaucer would've fit in perfectly with the Republican base! Bazinga! I'm on fire!].
But there are also anachronisms abound, which give the whole thing an air of silliness, and thus not something to be taken too seriously.
Many of the stories include bawdy details [friars coming out of the Devil's ass! Wow!] and there are a lot of fart jokes, like an olde timey Adam Sandler film might feature.
The art is certainly not of the highest quality [I could draw better than this] and you can really feel the two dimensions. At first, it threw me off, but I realized it was somewhat reminiscent of old woodcuts and tapestry pictures and thus probably intentional.
So, I started off thinking it was ugly and lame, but I ended up liking it. The goofy/self-aware vibe saves the absurdity of some of these tales from becoming annoying, and it is actually hilarious at times.
I will leave you with this: