In a hybrid form of poetical artistry, author Jack Murphy and illustrator Melanie Jeanne Plank have created the ultimate literary tribute to one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time, The Beatles. The title of their book of illustrated poetry, Beware of Napkins, plays on George Harrison’s 1970 song “Beware of Darkness.” This misheard song title features as the main narrative thread for the collection as the signing off of an unnamed father to his daughter Jessica in a series of letters that spans from Jessica’s childhood to motherhood.
Aside from the letters between Jessica and her father, of which we are only privy to Dad’s side, there are also a series of portrait poems about each of the members of The Beatles, as well as shout outs to particular songs, and highlights of their individual and collective careers. Covering topics of hypocrisy, the price of fame, selling out, and the whole Yoko controversy, Murphy and Plank do a splendid job of providing not only an overview of the band’s career, but also imagined snippets into their souls.
While Murphy’s poetry wraps the reader in sentiment, nostalgia and comedic relief, Plank’s illustrations are the perfect aesthetic and emotional accompaniment. From her realistic portraits from John, Paul, George and Ringo, to her cartoon-like drawings of beach chairs and her handwritten letters, each piece is the exact physical manifestation of the more ethereal emotion that Murphy attempts to convey.
There may be inside jokes and obscure hints that the lay reader won’t necessarily understand, but these do not detract at all from the overall piece if you don’t have the knowledge needed to understand them. Beware of Napkins is hilarious, heart breaking and intimate whether you are a hardcore Beatles fan or just one of the everyone who at least knows who The Beatles are.
Beware of Napkins is available for purchase at JackMurphyChicago.com