cover image Nose


Nikolai Vasil'evich Gogol. David R. Godine Publisher, $17.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-87923-963-3

Spirin's ( Snow White and Rose Red ; Boots and the Glass Mountain ) painstakingly detailed, gilt-flecked artwork has earned him a reputation for elegance, a quality that permeates his sumptuous rendering of the absurdist classic by his compatriot Gogol. This time, however, Spirin's offering seems best suited to adults who can appreciate the rich and subtle irony of the story; even in this adapted form, Gogol's deadpan tone and devilishly deliberate pacing may not be to children's tastes. The nuances of the text are enhanced by a lavish visual presentation: the eponymous proboscis cuts a debonair figure, bedecked in a stylish cutaway jacket, hip boots, powdered wig and tricornered hat, and it exudes a haughtiness to match. In contrast, the ``very punctilious and slightly pompous'' civil servant who has been robbed of his snout appears crude, almost pig-like, his ungainly figure looming awkwardly on the page. Intricate borders featuring the stately classical architecture of 19th-century St. Petersburg wrap around the boxed text, so that buildings crawl up one side of the page and down the other, overlapping at the corners. In several, the massive nose can be seen squired about town in a tiny, ornate carriage. Collectors may bury their own noses in this one. All ages. (May)