Have you ever read a book that was so disturbing that it brought things all the way around back to the “everything’s okay” setting in life? In the combo illustration/poetry book Russian Optimism, Russian-born American Citizen and comedian Ben Rosenfeld attempts to cheer up your day with the simple concept of “remember it could be worse.”
Russian Optimism: Dark Nursery Rhymes to Cheer You Right Up came from a place of love. According to the introduction, Rosenfeld’s Russian father told him dark tales to remind his son that things could be worse and he should be cheerful for what he has. Rosenfeld in turn took these Russian nursery rhymes, translated them to English and had illustrator Dov Smiley create matching dark images. This coffee table book also includes the original Russian translations so that the reader can see the original rhyme scheme.
The book is twisted to say the least. A rhyme about a gardener accidentally running over a couple making love in the dew of the early morning features an image of a lawn mover followed by a heart made of blood. One of the first rhymes is about a boy blinded by his mother so that he is unable to find the jam. The justification is that he now can hear very well. Even with the rather disturbing images and poems, it is actually quite hard to not close the book with a relieved smile that at least you haven’t been murdered today.
Ben Rosenfeld releases the “Passive Aggressive Podcast” weekly and recently released the comedy special “Neuro Comedy,” both of which you can enjoy via iTunes.
Russian Optimism: Dark Nursery Rhymes to Cheer You Right Up is now available from major book relatilers here: http://russianoptimism.com/