Review of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival

I wanted to explore Shaun Tan’s The Arrival in a little more depth, to explain my reaction to it. Thus a whole Bookslut column devoted to a review.

…And yet, the city is truly strange, filled with odd metamorphosing creatures and bizarre buildings — even if, like all immigrants, the man eventually becomes so accustomed to them that they melt into the background, as familiar to him as an ATM, a cell phone, an automatic door is to us. Nothing in the warmth of the style can ever disguise the alienness of the grotesquely playful beast shown on the front cover of The Arrival. I only have to imagine what it would look like in real life to know that. Yes, this grotesquery works on a symbolic level, showing how foreign a city looks to a newcomer, but it is also highly effective as fantasy. You tend to believe in the world you are shown, and you believe, too, that it has hidden vistas and a purpose and causality.