Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Illustrations by Brian Jocks

I really loved working on these illustrations. I've always had a strange fascination with insects, especially beetles. When I read this story, I pictured Gregor Samsa (who wakes up one day transformed into a huge 'vermin') as an awkwardly large beetle stumbling around on twiggy legs.

Unbeknownst to me, he is traditionally assumed to be a cockroach (I still don't buy it). His condition greatly affects his family who were completely financially dependent on him. Oh, and at some point his dad throws an apple at him and it wedges in his back.

A good read for all, especially if you like bug related family tragedies.

Mental Images

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

It's hard not to picture Jack Nicolson when thinking about this story, right? Good thing I didn't booksketch McMurphy close-up!

Picture above is our not-so-beloved Nurse Ratched (aka Big Nurse) about to go nuts because McMurphy has yet again gotten under her rock-hard skin. The narrator does mention how Big Nurse seems to transform and grow larger when she gets unsettled/furious. I thought that'd make a great illustration! I also drew a single strand of hair gone awry because our narrator (if I remember correctly) mentioned how her hair was rigid and immovable, fixed in place for all time, much like her hold over the ward.

An especially powerful novel about institutions, causes, and bucking the system, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has a lot to offer. There is quite a bit of comedy, provided by McMurphy's rebellious attempts to pull the rug out from under the psychiatric institution. There are darker themes, relating to the patients who don't really need to be in the institution, and those that really do need help.

One major point that the book makes is that the system which was created specifically to treat serious mental conditions aren't necessarily the most effective means of treatment, and could be second to a strong character who could motivate the patients. McMurphy helped everyone in the ward out, while Nurse Ratched kept them rooted in their problems with threats and an icy grip of control.

Of course, a raunchy night with alcohol and poker isn't going to cure the sick, eh?

To sum up the plot: A man (McMurphy) fakes insanity to avoid a prison sentence. When he gets put in an institution, he makes it his goal to upset the system. From what I remember, there are two main struggles: McMurphy vs. The Ward and the Patients vs. Themselves.

Really strong novel. Should be on everyone's reading list!