Strange Stains and Mysterious Smells:

Quentin Cottington's Journal of Faery Research

Terry Jones and Brian Froud

Simon and Schuster. $23.00

On the heels of the delightful and unexpectedly popular Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book comes a sequel of sorts: Strange Stains and Mysterious Smells: Quentin Cottington's Journal of Faery Research.

The premise? That the stains and smells we encounter in everyday life -- the odor of dirty socks or the stain on the front of your shirt -- are actually living beings with minds of their own. Using specialized equipment, such as the "Psychic Image Nebulising Generator" (PING) and the "Primary Odor Nasalizing Gasificator" (PONG) developed by Quentin Cottington in the early part of this century, these creatures can be seen and heard. Terry Jones and Brian Froud have replicated Quentin's research, interviewing many common smells and stains, including:

  • The Vegetable Stenchman. A cheerful but potent smell who lurks in every refrigerator. Favorite conversation topics include "Entertaining Fish Without Using Strong Language" and "Where to Store Used Lollipop Sticks."
  • Loobritus Meckanicus. The oily, black stain that appears underneath your car even when there are no leaks! Also fond of Elvis impersonations.
  • Mai Tee Pong. A truly awful stench found in spray cans misleadingly labeled "Air Freshener."

Strange Stains and Mysterious Smells is an amusing vehicle for Froud's distinctive artwork, but lacks the spontaneity of the earlier Pressed Fairy Book. Some of the gags simply don't work: "Hello, I'm Terry Jones. And I'm Brian Froud. You can tell which of us is writing at any particular moment by the simple, but we hope effective device, that when I'm writing (this is Terry Jones) I will use the word 'heelpost'. Whereas when I'm writing (this is Brian Froud) I will always..." which plan they quickly abandon. Many of the entries stoop to "bathroom" humor, such as the Peckory Cud who specializes in children with runny noses, or the Flettera Floralillia and her "Ode to an Arm-Pit."

There are over thirty full color pictures of the unsavory creatures, along with diagrams and schematics of Quentin Cottington's PING and PONG equipment. The pages are replete with glossy stains, smeared text, and faux coffee rings. Mercifully, there are no accompanying smells.


Also by Terry Jones and Brian Froud:

Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book. Turner Publishing, 1994


This review copyright 1997 by Wendy Morris

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