Eight-Lane Runaways Review

By | Tuesday, July 14, 2020 Leave a Comment
Eight-Lane Runaways
Eight-Lane Runaways is the newest book from Fantagraphics by Hnry McCausland. It's about...

It's about...

OK, so you know how Winsor McCay wrote Little Nemo in Slumberland and you can say it was about this kid who falls asleep and explores Slumberland? And how that is completely and totally inadequate in describing what actually goes on? Eight-Lane Runaways is kind of like that. Imagine if McCay wrote about a footrace, and it had the same sense of surreality that Nemo had. Ostensibly there's some kind of race going on, but that's mostly just an excuse for the characters to move forward. These runners keep running, and encountering different characters and situations and it kind of defies narrative sense. That is, everything does go from one scene to the next smoothly enough, but a lot of doesn't seem to fit in any overarching narrative.

That's not a criticism, mind you. The encounters are interesting and fascinating in and of themselves. As highlighted on the back of the book, there are "sentient ponchos, algebra dogs, a juice institute, kite flying to the moon..." And that's just characters that have a direct impact on the story. Throughout the backgrounds are hundreds of little events and scenes that -- while not as packed as Where's Waldo -- are infinitely more interesting, often bordering on the surreal. The world McCausland has created (would we call this world McCausLand as well?) has an internal logic like Slumberland or Wonderland, but it doesn't exactly line up with what we see happening in the real world. As such, much of the joy in reading Eight-Lane Runaways is just in exploring. Who is that little guy with the "3" on his hat poking out of that weird, square tube in the ground? Are those two people on opposite sides of the page playing ping pong with each other? What are the rules of what appears to be a pie-throwing game?

The book is very whimsical and can race by if you let it, but it's also easy to stop and get lost in the background. And with either approach you take, you're still bound to find something both delightful and unexpected.
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