The Complete Ouija Interviews by Sarah Becan

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The Complete Ouija Interviews
by Sarah Becan
Shortpants Press

ouiI pity the ghoul who hasn’t played with a Ouija board.  Sometimes they’re unresponsive but more often they’re eerily insightful and communicative.

My cousins and I once made a Ouija board, drawing the appropriate letters and numbers on the back of some other board game and using the lid off a heart-shaped box as the planchette.  Believe it or not, you don’t need Milton Bradley to manufacture a Ouija board.  Pretty much any style board will do.  And really, because we made our pitiful board from our own tools and youthful cunning, it was even more thrilling than it ought to have been when the ghosts started talking to us.

In this Xeric Award-winning book, Sarah Becan illustrates real conversations with dead people that she and others had using a Ouija board in Nantucket.  Why Nantucket?  Well, although the island’s small size apparently makes it a magnet for ghosts, Becan was drawn there because her brother worked in a Nantucket hostel.  Still, after learning a thing or two about ghostly romances in the after-life, I’m inclined to think a certain limerick is to blame for all the dead in Nantucket.

The Complete Ouija Interviews seems a little misleading as a title.  The interviews are pretty brief and there are roughly nine total.  The interviews are spaced to one panel per page too, so the whole 192 pages really fly by.  Each conversation is satisfying in its own way, but I could have probably read twice as many interviews before I’d really be ready to call this a “complete” book.  Of course, I’m sure this is a complete representation of all her Ouija interviews, but it would be interesting to see her take on other people’s interviews too in follow-up Ouija Interview books.

The interviewees were made up of the recent and long-deceased, men and women, children and adults, siblings and *shiver* parents.  They were overwhelmingly comprised of murder victims and one of the ghosts proclaimed that much of the after-life is spent just fucking around.  Uh, literally.

Although most of the ghosts were murdered, they still seem so upbeat about the lives they lived and the after-life too.  Even though this book seems like it could be truly scary, the message of the ghosts is actually weirdly affirming.  I’ll admit it’s comforting to think that even if the world ended today there would be something to do tomorrow.  And it’s encouraging also to hear the advice of the dead repeated in so many words, in so many ways, again and again, “Live it up.”

Something that really surprised me about the interviews is that they were just that — interviews.  The human players quoted in the book never ask the ghosts to predict their future; they simply ask questions about the after-life and the past-lives of the dead.  I’m not sure if there was some editing involved, but I really liked this approach for the book.  I think it’s natural for people at the Ouija board to look for answers that will help them in their individual lives, but for this kind of book it would have been really disruptive to the narrative and even boring to hear ghosts answer questions about who the players will marry or where they’ll live someday.  Happily, these stories come directly from the ghosts to the reader in such a way that permits us to make our own interpretation of the text, instead of enforcing and preferring the response of the players.

Becan’s approach to the book cuts out the players almost entirely, actually.  The living are not even illustrated, just the dead.  The ghosts appear in such a unique and lovely way too.  She is able to imprint a bit of personality on the dead, but her art’s not so forced that she’s puppeting their appearance for reader response.  Her art facilitates the words more like a clear glass would a glass of wine.  Each illustration perfectly balancing the nature and personality of that particular ghost with their statements, presenting it in its most harmless and truthful way.  Some of the ghosts are funny and some of them are somber, but none of them are very scary.  It could be that Becan’s lovely, communicative art takes some of that edge off of these shocking tales, but it works because it makes the dead more like the living in a weird yet palpable way.

The Complete Ouija Interviews by Sarah Becan is available for purchase through the Shortpants Press online store.  It measures 5″x6″, is perfect-bound, has a debossed cover, brown-hued interior pages, and costs $10.

Sarah Morean

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