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I had no expectations before reading The Pickle Index. I only knew: it looked pretty and I like pickles.
Now I’ve read it, and to help with your expectations – think Welcome to Night Vale meets The Travelling Restaurant meets A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy plus circus performers plus pickles, set in a world where everyone must submit – via pseudo-fax steampunk-style tech – daily pickle recipes to the Pickle Index. If that helps. And apparently Miranda July said this about it: “The Pickle Index is full of life and everything else — rowdy and sweaty and heartbreaking and funny.”
The story opens when circus ringleader Zloty Korn has been arrested following an unintentionally hilarious performance. The townspeople and authorities are calling for his head; his crimes being “mockery, destabilization, and anarchy, blurring the serious with the comical and the comical with the unintentional.” In the meantime, the rest of Zloty’s troupe eventually realise what has happened and set out on a ridiculous and unlikely adventure to try and rescue him.
It’s told across two separate (very pretty, illustrated hardback) books which are read in alternate chapters. First, you read a chapter of absurdly non-impartial (partial?) reportage from the local paper, The Daily Scrutinizer. Then you read a chapter from the point of view of Flora Bialy, the youngest and most recent member of the terribly bad circus troupe.
Nothing is subtle in this book. Jokes are over-the-top, characters are outlandish, and every turn of events is full of buffoonery. But this is the point of the book – and it works really well. It’s a great book to read aloud, and even though it’s not a “kids’ book” I reckon you could use it for family storytime (as long as they’re are old enough – there are a few bawdy jokes). Otherwise you should totally buy it as a gift next time you’re stumped for what to get someone who likes nonsense and absurdity, or adventures, sci-fi, circuses and pickles.
Pics from www.thepickleindex.com
Review by Jane Arthur
The Pickle Index
by Eli Horowitz, with pictures by Ian Huebert
Published by Sudden Oak Books