Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Ink Drinker!

Our book today is Eric Sanvoisin’s 1996 The Ink-Drinker, a mini-hymn to the ultimate seductive power of reading. The young boy who narrates the story of one remarkable hot summer day dislikes books ; his father can’t get enough of them, calls them his little ‘bookies’ and has filled the family’s home with them (even in the bathroom).

The boy hates books, or so he thinks. He loves the sound of tearing paper, and he’s only helping out at his father’s bookshop to give himself something to do. He doesn’t browse the books – he’s mainly looking for shoplifters (even though his father tends to spot the real thieves as soon as they walk in the door).

It’s while he’s thus occupied that he spots a mysterious new customer with weird pale skin and an odd manner. The customer makes his way to a secluded corner of the shop, waits until he thinks nobody’s watching, then takes a straw out of his coat and proceeds to drink the ink from one of the books!

The boy is astonished and follows the strange man when he leaves the store, eventually ending up in a crypt in the cemetery, only to discover that the man is, of course, a vampire. The vampire brusquely tells the boy that he has liver problems and can’t drink blood anymore, but he’s found a surprisingly nutritious substitute in ink. When the boy asks why he doesn’t just by bottles of ink to satisfy his craving, the vampire somewhat testily responds that only ‘aged’ ink on pages provides true satisfaction, and he darkly hints that the boy will soon understand.

The next day, the boy wakes up with a new craving. He takes out a straw and proceeds to devour a book, finding himself totally absorbing the adventures of a ferocious pirate captain. In the perfect metaphorical world of this wonderfully whimsical kids book (with fittingly odd illustrations by Martin Matje), the boy has become an ink-drinker. Readers everywhere will understand.


lisa peet said...

This is when I miss having a kid at home, because that justified ANY children's book purchase, anytime. I really like the artwork on this one, though... I might have to get it and put it aside for, I don't know, theoretical grandchildren. Or just keep it.

Steve Donoghue said...

No justification needed! Really good kids books are really good for EVERYBODY! Shall I send you some choice picks?

lisa peet said...

I certainly wouldn't say no!

anna said...

It's like "Eating Poetry " (Mark Strand):

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.