Capacity by Theo Ellsworth

Capacity by Theo Ellsworth

But as I walked by with my basket of choice edibles, I said to him under my breath: “That was a severely satisfying seven years, seven days, three minutes and forty-eight seconds, was it not?”
He did not look around. He did not say anything. He just stood there clutching a grapefruit to his chest, with an inhuman gleam in his eyes. The kind of gleam you don’t see too often anymore.
I walked over to juggle the beets.

Ah, already I deviate. I admit, Capacity is not a novel in the true sense of the word. It is a fantastical, graphical, autobiographical story of the artist, Theo Ellsworth, his projects and what has led him to this point in his life. So why have I chosen this to review? Well, Theo Ellsworth is a unique artist, I’m not even sure of his level of fame (but I do know he has 56 69 members in his Facebook fan group1), and whether anyone at ImpishIdea would have heard of him.

But I enjoyed his work so much, that I felt I had to share. If you want the short story behind it, in my travels of Amerika, I found myself in Portland, OR. At its famous market, I saw a stall with this guy drawing. The drawings on display drew me in, and picking up one of his books to read… ah, it was love at first sight. I coughed up the necessary money, and then, after sitting down to read them properly, promptly went back twenty minutes later to buy another one for my friend’s birthday. (The longer story involves my first encounter and tasting of ELEPHANT EARS. You Amerikaners know how to kill yourselves in the best way possible. Props, man.)

Capacity is a quirky, whimsical tale, and whilst not engaged in the actual plot, the book breaks off into short tangents of works that Ellsworth has previously published. (In fact, Capacity is a collection of works Ellsworth has drawn, and printed, thus far, with a story joining them together). I love his drawings, they are so intricate, you can sit there and want to look at everything in the whole-page sketches, but always find something new.

Surprisingly, the story is quite complicated, circular, and the reader has to remember details of what happened at the beginning to understand the end (or, else, re-read it). I’ll admit, the humour is… whimsical, quirky, eccentric, slightly odd, and probably not to everybody’s taste. But it is perfect for me. I guess one nitpick is that the story can drag a bit, I occasionally caught myself skim reading, but I still enjoyed it thoroughly.

Theo Ellsworth

So if you are ever in the area of Portland, I definitely recommend you go down to the market and buy this book. Not only will you be supporting an emerging artist (as long as you are sure the humour is of your taste), the Imaginary Body Club will welcome you and your tea will always be blessed by an authentic tea gnome.

Rating: four out of five books

Four out of five

Next week: The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall


1 It’s gone up since I wrote this review! Excellent!

All pictures used without with permission of Theo Ellsworth, visit his site for more at

Edit 1: Capacity and others are available to buy at the Secret Acres shop (e-mail for international postage). I recently added Sleeper Car to my collection = fabulicious.

Edit 2: With future readings, and tweakings, and having too much time to think whilst driving (heaven forbid I should pay attention to the road and the guy WHO CUT ME UP ON THE ROUNDABOUT TODAY F^*%!), it’s occured to me that I have approached this review in a very superficial manner. I concentrated on the humorous aspect of the story, but ignored what made it a poignant and personal piece. Ellsworth shares with the reader some of his lowest moments as an artist, his drawings and stories evoke an sympathetic bond between him and the reader.

At times the story can have depressive shades, and it makes the book a much bigger journey. However, despite this, one still comes away with humour and hope being the main messages of the book. Which is probably why I initially focused on the quirky humour.

But you know what? If you want to go all the way around the roundabout, experts agree the RIGHT INNER LANE IS THE ONE TO BE IN.

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  1. RomanticVampireLover on 15 September 2009, 12:57 said:

    Nicely done Jeni, as usual. ;)

  2. Puppet on 15 September 2009, 14:33 said:

    …Seems interesting.

    Nice review, Jeni.

  3. Wizard of Toast on 15 September 2009, 21:22 said:

    Sounds right up my alley, Do you know if its availible over the internet or in bookstores?

  4. Steph (who really should be doing some homework right now...) on 15 September 2009, 22:11 said:

    Wizard of Toast, I love your username. Jeni, I love your review. As well as the sound of this book! This one definitely goes on my ‘to-read’ list.

  5. Jeni on 16 September 2009, 04:28 said:

    Ooh, yes, I probably should have mentioned that. This book is available from Secret Acres for US$15. Shipping US$2.50 (email for overseas orders, I bought the new mini-comic and the postage was US$4 to the UK).

  6. Jeni on 16 September 2009, 04:30 said:

    And derrrr, here’s the url:

  7. Wizard of Toast on 16 September 2009, 14:05 said:

    Thanks I will defietly put that infomaton to use!
    and thanks Steph!

  8. Virgil on 17 September 2009, 18:25 said:

    Great work Jeni! And with without copyright infringement!

  9. Elanor on 17 September 2009, 18:28 said:

    Hee. I like the humour shown in the pictures—v. quirky indeed, but in a nice, giggle-inducing sort of way.

  10. Reggie on 23 September 2009, 15:19 said:

    Heh, 69 members.