Outstanding in the Rain: A Die-Cut Adventure in Words and Meaning
By Maria Popova
“Words belong to each other,” Virginia Woolf asserted in the only surviving recording of her voice, and out of that belonging sometimes spring miraculous surprises. In Outstanding in the Rain (public library), illustrator, graphic designer, and MTA subway artist Frank Viva takes us on a trip to Coney Island — but it is no ordinary trip. Rather, it’s a most unusual adventure in wordplay and meaning.
Partway between Italian graphic designer Bruno Munari’s pioneering vintage “interactive” picture-books, novelist Jonathan Safran Foer’s mashup masterwork Tree of Codes, and Indian artist Ramsingh Urveti’s imaginative die-cut adaptation of a 17th-century trick poem, the story — sweet, warm, and just the right amount of mischievous — is punctuated by cleverly placed die-cut holes through which one word peeks into another as the narrative progresses. Each turn of the page delights with its unexpected twist of word-wielding and meaning-morphing.
At its heart is a wondrous celebration of words and how we arrange those strange symbols called letters to make sense of the world and how that sense changes when we rearrange those symbols even slightly — something that calls to mind the unusual alphabet book Take Away the A. And yet, conceptual parallels and influences aside, Viva’s work is wholly original in both style and sensibility — vibrant and honest and full of joy.
Published April 14, 2015