cover image I Love You Dude

I Love You Dude

Vladimir Radunsky, . . Harcourt/Gulliver, $16 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-15-205176-1

In this surreal escapade, Radunsky (What Does Peace Feel Like? ) speaks from the point of view of "a brave young doodle named Dude." The enigmatic piece of graffiti—an improbably long-legged blue elephant wearing clunky brown shoes, with the words "I Love You Dude" lettered above it—is painted by a child on a whitewashed wall. "Nobody was happy with me," Dude says as passersby grumble about vandalism. "I was alone, ashamed, and miserable." He leaps clumsily off the wall and seeks a surface he can call home. At first he enjoys being a decal on a mug, but he gallops away when a garish woman uses the cup for scalding coffee. He contemplates becoming a tattoo on a sunbather's ponderous belly, but decides "it was not the life for me—always hiding under shirts, rarely seeing human faces... no." After real circus elephants tease him, Dude flops listlessly onto the sidewalk ("People walked over me without even noticing"). Radunsky tells the story in flat mixed-media collages that suggest carelessly painted public walls and cheap wheat-pasted flyers. He places the endearingly awkward Dude at the mercy of a clownish, Fellini-esque public. Finally, an outsider-art connoisseur recognizes a certain spontaneity in Dude's improvised line, but by then, readers of this garrulous "long short story" may have grown impatient. For all his sentimental yearning, Dude remains a two-dimensional elephant. All ages. (Oct.)