Home is a book, a puzzle, and a clue as to why some games are so fascinating

January 6, 2019
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Home is a children’s book by the writer and illustrator Carson Ellis. It’s concerned, as you might expect, with all the sorts of places that people might find to live.

The book is built around a series of paintings by Ellis – watercolours, I think, but I might be wrong about this stuff. And it’s quietly fantastical, if such a combination is possible. “Home is a house in the country,” is how the whole thing kicks off, and there’s a nice little house with a red brick chimney, and a couple of horses running nearby. “Or home is an apartment,” it continues: brickwork, graffiti, a cat stretching itself in a window while a girl in another window seems to be studying a nearby pigeon. Pages later, however, we learn that some people live in palaces, or underground lairs. Some people live in shoes or on the moon. Each illustration is delicate, detailed, and wonderfully, organically strange. This is a peculiarly unforced kind of strangeness: of course a Japanese businessman lives in a sort of geometrical papercraft rock with a chimney poking out of the top. Of course he shares the double-page spread with a Norse god and his wooden church. This is that kind of imagination that has a sense of certainty to it – its fancies do not feel like fancies at all. They feel like clear-eyed reports from another world that has its own rules and its own rigour.

But Home is also a game. At least I think it is. I think it has the space inside it to be a game.

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