This Is to Tell You About the Barn Dance

Prostitute by David ShrigleyIf you knew a David Shrigley, you know he bit someone in junior high wood shop; he racked up more referrals than anyone in the history of that school; he threw a carton of milk on a cheerleader and got chased across campus to the vice principal's office—where normally no one would ever think to look except he was so slow they saw him run in.

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In the real Shrigley's case, though, it ends well: an electrical-storm-turned-power-station with this, The Book of Shrigley, a weighty, primary-colored, coffee-table book of, well, crap—or so it would seem—the latest offering from the Glaswegian who, his bio reports, has animated videos for the band Blur and is a "U.K. pop art superstar." Okay! You getthird-grade-quality drawings that would fool the guys at 60 Minutes. Lists of what he ate ("For breakfast I had a bowl of musseli [sic] but I boffed [sic] it up on my trousers. For lunch I ate the trousers. . . .") Then there's the found Bananarama fan mail—and you start to get it: it's really good fake crazy, or else he really is crazy. Is he? Bananarama? Nobody likes them.Precisely. He's making fun of you, or of himself; and with much of it, you're never quite sure because it's written nice and round like an eighth grader would, on a hand-crumpled note.

The other times? The other times, he says what you'd say if you could talk in one long rant, as in "The Doctors," one of many lists: "They removed his spit gland," Shrigley prints, in block letters, crossing out where he misspells. "They torched the garment district to kill the [crossout] moths. . . . They operated on his head and took out his brain and when they tried to put it back it would not fit. . . . They all smoke and drive sports cars at 100 mph." On pages like these—quite a few—he writes what we're all thinking every time our feet go in the stirrups "At the Hospital": "The tops of the cabinets are covered in dirt . . . They never answer the telephone . . . You have to leave your dignity at the door." He's funny because it's true. Partly.

The rest—well, the rest is just Shrigley. Off in the ether: fake medical diagrams (how long was he under?), more drawings ("Major Smethwick-Brown, eaten by a crocodile, India, 1892"), paintings (Fireworks), ghosts, invitations ("THIS IS TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE BARN DANCE/IT IS ON SUNDAY AT 8 PM/IN THE BARN"), pleas for the return of missing creatures ("MISSING SINCE THURSDAY/HAVE YOU SEEN THEM/CALL POLICE").

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At some point—2 a.m., 11:43 a.m., 6:42 a.m.—it's what we're all thinking. We just swallow hard. Shrigley lets it come up.

THE BOOK OF SHRIGLEY BY DAVID SHRIGLEY; CHRONICLE BOOKS. SOFT COVER, 221 PAGES, $24.95.

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