Review by Ian Keogh
Pascale Blanchet’s Baloney straddles the line between comics and illustrated books, beautifully elegant full page cartoons accompanying blocks of text, but with a definite narrative progress carried by the illustrations.
It’s very conceptual, part opera, part three act play, and all dark tragedy. We learn of the butcher in a small town where it’s perpetually cold, sealed off by a large wall from a cliff edge that’s already witnessed one fatality. The butcher, known as Baloney, is still haunted by the day he lost his wife and which left his daughter injured, and he exists in his small town yearning for something better for his daughter. The other main player is the Duke of Shostakov, his name redolent of the difficult music composed by Dmitri Shostakovich, and owner of the only heating business in town, from which his fortune stems.
Blanchet etches his attitude from the start, piling unfortunate incidents onto Baloney’s daughter one after the other, and drawing her substitutions for lost limbs in an absurdist manner. She has one foot and one wheel, for instance, that down to polio in her infancy. The foreboding language of the story supplies a formal seriousness contrasting the surreal illustration, somewhat disguising the comedic intent. The effect is an event bleaker version of the disturbing trials endured by those in Edward Gorey’s rhyming delights (see recommendations).
The dark vision is kept consistent until a conclusion entirely in keeping with what preceded it, Blanchet not a creator to become too attached to his creations. The bleak emotional context means that although Baloney may mimic the conventions and format of children’s books, this isn’t something to be supplied to a loved one’s infants.