Gail Prussky, 104 pgs, Exile Editions, exileeditions.com, $19.95
If you’re in search of nightmarish illustrations, delightfully strange poems and spooky stories, you will find them in Gail Prussky’s beautifully executed volume. Broken Balloons starts with an interview with the author by filmmaker David Cronenberg. That even Cronenberg, the master of body horror, appears to bore Prussky says a great deal about the audacity and individuality that goes into her lurid work.
Strange and misshapen insects populate the pages of her collection, as well as hellish beasts, unusual human characters, colourful paintings tinted with dread, and unsettling writing. In a darkly amusing poem titled “My Cassowary,” a pet owner regrets that their murderous feathered friend must go into the oven. In “Insomnia,” the narrator describes the many unstoppable thoughts that come to mind in the middle of the night until early morning, and wanting to “poke out both [their] eyes” by the end of it. “The Beautiful Asshole,” told from the point of view of the titular asshole, provides an account of the immense egotism of such a person when they try to describe their own beauty.
This fantastic volume belongs on the coffee table of any nightmare-having, horror-loving, cheerfully cynical weirdo who delights in morose illustrations, art, and poetry. Prussky’s book recalls Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. If you were a fan of those books as a child, you will delight in this wonderfully creepy artwork as a grown up. (Nicole Partyka)