Title: The King of Fu
Author: Benjamin Davis
The King of Fu is the unique backdrop Benjamin Davis uses to share the beginning of his life story. Divided into three parts–umbilical cords, childhood, and adolescence–The King of Fu is a reflection of his feelings about everything from his relationships with his family members to death, sex, and pornography and focuses on the question of what it means to be an adult.
Written in free verse and accompanied by vivid, black and white illustrations, The King of Fu is unlike any other coming of age memoir. Davis wraps his life experiences within imaginative devices, which gives his stories a childlike perspective. He describes himself as being covered in fur and sporting horns.
He refers to his parents and other adults with power as “supervisors” and family pets as “prisoners.” Somehow, Davis cleverly uses these metaphors to process the events that happened to him as he was growing up. For example, instead of referring to his mother by name, he uses his mother’s occupation as her title. Whenever something happens to him that is particularly scary, however, the “Computer Science Major,” at first, and then the Homeopathic Doctor later on in the memoir, transforms into MOTHER, a powerful being of mythical proportions who can ease his pains and swallow up bullies. This is much more compelling than simply explaining what happened when his mother defended him from bullies.
Even though Davis describes his life events from a child’s perspective, his witty commentary reflects an adult making sense of his childhood and the experiences that have shaped his beliefs about life. He sometimes concludes a story with how it “set a paradigm” about his connection to everything from relationships to breaking the law. In a way, these theories offer a way for the reader to make sense of the memories Davis is sharing.
Even though The King of Fu is simply divided into three parts, there isn’t always a logical flow to the memories Davis shares, which can be disorienting. It’s also confusing by its lack of end punctuation, even though the text is written in an easy, straightforward manner. Navigating through these issues complicates the reader’s experience of the mythical world of Fu, and Davis’s metaphors at times become too abstract and difficult to follow.
Like Klimov’s bold illustrations, The King of Fu is a vivid look at what it means to be an adult, and Davis does so with a great sense of humor. He often interrupts his story with sarcastic parenthetical definitions of common objects or ideas that poke fun at the irony of striving to be an adult.
Davis is both honest and funny, and The King of Fu is a creative work, interweaving his childhood and adolescent memories with the fantastical world he has imagined, all as a way to explain how he views the world and adulthood.
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