cover image Nasty Book

Nasty Book

Barry Yourgrau, . . HarperCollins/Cotler, $11.99 (183pp) ISBN 978-0-06-057978-4

These 43 very short—vignettes? essays? anecdotes?—aim at outrageousness but fall curiously flat. An unidentified narrator relates a variety of gruesome, grisly, gross or just plain stupid sketches (there isn't enough meat in any one of them to call it a story) about nose-picking, farting, monsters, poisoning, pimples and assorted dementia, like a boy with a toenail-clippings fetish. Decapitation is a recurrent event. The tone is mostly dark: in "Cake," a boy freezes to death after running away from home and his parents' reaction is to sell off his bike at a yard sale, but the subject matter is mostly grade-school, meaning this will likely miss the mark with its intended audience. An inventive design (the book is bound so that the text appears upside down and many pages appear to bear smudgy black fingerprints) may draw in reluctant readers. The last entry, "Goblins and Their Crimes," is about a "bitter starving writer of exquisitely arty, bad-selling fiction," who decides to write children's books because "how hard can it be to make up a story about some little wizard, like what'shisname; or a bunny that runs down a hole?" As this tedious collection points out, it's harder than it looks. Ages 10-up. (May )