Review: The Werewolf at Dusk and Other Stories by David Small

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cover of The Werewolf at Dusk and Other StoriesThe Werewolf at Dusk and Other Stories by David Small
Liveright (March 2024)
192 pages
Reviewed by Danica Davidson

The Werewolf at Dusk and Other Stories is a haunting triptych of tales about “the dread of things internal.” Done in an illustrated format, it’s kind of like a picture book for adults, and it shows the depth and artistic aesthetics possible in graphic storytelling. This is a book to stay with readers long after they’ve finished the last page, and I’ve never seen anything else quite like it.

Award-winning creator David Small, who is both the author and illustrator, might be best known for his graphic memoir Stitches and his many picture books for children, like Imogene’s Antlers. This is a very different sort of book, and shows his range.

The first story, the titular “The Werewolf at Dusk,” is based on a short story by Lincoln Michel (which was originally published under the title “Moon Aches”). The protagonist is a werewolf who is getting on in years and no longer able to do what he once did. He sees the ways people treat and look at him differently, and his strength and wild nature are juxtaposed with his struggles and insecurities.

The middle story, “A Walk in the Old City,” is a surreal dream where a psychoanalyst knows he’s in a dream and is trying to decipher the meaning of it. He’s lost, he sees giant spiders, he can’t find his way back. Things become more disturbing and interesting as he moves on. This story is, no pun intended, a psychologist’s dream, in the sense that it masterfully is full of hidden meanings and layers of interpretations.

The last story, and perhaps the most haunting and important, is “The Tiger in Vogue,” based on the story by Jean Ferry originally titled Le Tigre Mondain. It takes place in Germany in the 1920s, and the protagonist goes to a play with an anthropomorphic tiger and a “little man” in the sidelines. It entertains others, but deeply disturbs him. Even though he’s disturbed, it doesn’t mean he’ll speak up when things are going wrong right in front of him. And the little man should cause everyone terror.

Each story has supernatural elements — a werewolf, giant spiders, an anthropomorphized tiger. But the true terror in them is that they’re all allegories for real concerns — including growing older, losing control, seeing the world go mad around you, and watching people not take danger seriously . . . until it’s too late.

All the stories are fast-paced and intellectually stimulating, leaving readers plenty to chew on and think about. There can be layers to meaning to them, like dreams or nightmares. The artwork is fluid, emotional, always fitting the scene. Sometimes pages will go on without any writing, because writing isn’t needed, and the artwork carries the story perfectly. This is cathartic art at its best. Highly recommended.

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