Beard: Book slices into mythological anatomyWritten by Jim Beard | | email@example.com
On the surface, tales of obsession and madness shouldn’t rank as strong candidates for popular fiction, but time and time again we look to such stories for stirring entertainment and illumination.
“The Resurrectionist,” a new illustrated work of fiction from writer/artist E.B. Hudspeth and eclectic publisher Quirk Books, slices into our fascination with the macabre and peels back the layers for a closer look at one man’s lonely quest for understanding.
The first third of “The Resurrectionist” purports to outline the life of a late-19th century scientist named Dr. Spencer Black. This is one of those books that upholds the illusion of reality throughout its pages, through letters and first-hand accounts of Black’s fall into a darker world. Some may be reminded of a similar device used in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” but here the quotes and personal commentary punctuate a seemingly biographical text on the doctor, one that covers his odd childhood in the 1850s and up to his mysterious disappearance in 1908.
That’s all well and good, but the real meat of “The Resurrectionist” is pinned down in the last two-thirds of the book, called “The Codex Extinct Animalia.” Reportedly reproduced from a book of which only six copies were ever printed, the Codex is a “Gray’s Anatomy” of 11 different species of animals, all them sprung from the well of deepest mythology. Black shows off sphinx, siren, satyr, pegasus, centaur and more in various states of undress; skin, muscles, nerves and bones are darkly, lovingly illustrated and notated, amping up the overarching creepiness factor.
At one point in the earlier narrative, an alleged spectator of Dr. Black’s surgery commented in horror that “the devil has his own private surgeon, and I saw him.” “The Resurrectionist” would make the perfect gift for those among us who would appreciate their own glimpse into a beautiful world of gods and monsters.