Short stories about aging from Romania
By Sorina Vazelina
Published by Centrala ISBN: 978-0-9933951-8-5
Review by Jamie Stevenson
For an illustrator, there is no skill more valuable than that of simple observation. The ability to not just look, but to see, allows for an awareness and absorption of all the perplexing, joyful intricacies of human experience that are overlooked and crowded out by the bustling bigness of the world.
After a just few moments venturing through the pages of her book Old Farts – a collection of short stories, family histories and whimsical musings on the tendencies of elderly folk – it becomes abundantly clear that this is a skill that Sorina Vazelina possesses in spades. The illustrations range from the briefest of brushstrokes to linework of minute detail, but consistent throughout is a warm authenticity of gesture and expression that invites the reader to share in the artist’s passion for people-watching.
Beginning with a surreal and humourous narrative that introduces us to the part of her brain preoccupied with this fascination with senior citizens, Vazelina sets the tone for the rest of the book; charming humanity supplemented by a healthy dose of the bizarre. Imagination dances with observation across the pages, steered by written narration and dialogue that is witty yet honest, anchoring any silliness firmly in the real world.
Such is the rich variation of visual tone and texture in the illustrations, and the readiness to jump from one train of thought to another between pages, that a reader could be forgiven for thinking that this is a collaboration between many artists. Any fears that the identity of the creator might get lost in the colourful cacophony, however, are quickly dispelled by the end of the book. The candid way in which Vazelina introduces us to her own grandparents and the history of her family is touching, and the intimate clarity with which she illustrates not just her memories, but theirs, is disarming. I was left reflecting on my own relationships with my family, and cherishing the stories and shared experiences that connect us.
Old Farts tickles the belly with its playful humour, and warms the cheeks with its empathy and human sensibility. Each page contains tiny details that go unnoticed the first time round, demanding multiple return visits, and the range of depth in both text and imagery ensures that there is wisdom and enjoyment to be found by readers of all ages.