One shelf in my studio bookcase is reserved for books on writing. It is a collection made up of a few writers whose books about writing have inspired and helped me; they have fueled my writing energy and aided my craft. Mixed in with those books are some plays and screenplays that I love. There is one anomaly: Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim: A Visual Novel by Tom Corwin, Illustrated by Craig Frazier. It may have won its place alongside such titles as Writing Down the Bones, For Writers Only and The War of Art by virtue of its beauty –Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim is wonderful to hold and to look at, as well as being an odd and charming read.
It’s difficult to make this book last for any length of time, because it’s only 101 pages, and half of those are illustrations. Craig Frazier chose brown ink for his illustrations, which gives them — and the book — a warmth and richness that black ink could not have achieved. The beautiful pen and ink drawings depict the travels of Mr. Fooster, who sets out on his journey with no particular destination in mind and no suitcase or backpack. All he has with him is an old wrinkled letter, his compass, and a bottle of bubble soap.
As he walks along, his mind wanders. He asks himself how it is that mandarin oranges come in “… perfect little segments without any mechanical engineering…How come you never see baby pigeons? Who figured out how to eat artichokes?” Along the way, he meets animal, insect, and man, and he gets into some truly dicey situations, such as finding himself facing “…a bug the size of a bulldozer.” The bug is eating a path around the world, consuming everyone and everything that crosses its path. Since Mr. Fooster has, without question, crossed its path, he is about to become a big bug’s lunch. How Mr. Fooster copes with this and other difficult encounters surprised and delighted me right through to the end. His story continually bends the left brain out of shape and offers up refreshment for the right brain.
This book is a little like dipping back into an analogue age, a time when you could spin a dial and end up in unusual and unexpected places. If you need a break from the digital, pre-programmed, app-specific thinking that dominates our world, I recommend a journey with Tom Corwin’s Mr. Fooster. It is a lovely getaway.