Of Fleas and Fleadom, A Tale of Two Vermin (2014)
Reviewed By: Avraham Azrieli
Avraham Azrieli writes books and screenplays. His website is: www.AzrieliBooks.com
This intricate story, which is categorized by its creators as a “Graphic Epic Poem,” combines prose and illustrations to seamlessly deliver a truly touching tale of adventure, suspense and humor.
Exploring humanlike notions of quality of life and disruption, personal security and risk, skin-of-your-teeth survival and disaster, intimate love and faith, it tells the story of Finnigan T. Flea as he travels through a life filled with all of the above—and more. The title of Chapter Four defines it best: “Paradise Gained, Paradise Lost.” And then gained and lost again. And again.
Telling a story from the point of view of an animal is not a novel concept, but doing it well is a great achievement. Besides, featuring a flea (in an epic story, no less) is truly creative—and often uproaringly funny. Moreover, reaching for an authentic voice is a high bar, which this unique book achieves with flying colors.
The story is told in prose arranged like a string of poems, intertwined with magnificent illustrations that compound the drama. In fact, the harrowing events are communicated to the reader with a lively mix of words and images that merge to communicate as one. The story is nicely divided into scenes and chapters, its poetic stride accomplished without diminishing from the steady pace of narrative suspense and the characters’ emotional highs and lows.
In essence, the hero wonders about the mother of all existential questions: “As he settled on his new found hide, he wondered about freedom, about how to decide what that really was for a flea.” And, as each of us, human readers, leap from rock to rock down the treacherous river of our own life, don’t we often ask the same question?
To sum it all up, this original, creative work is unusually clever, really funny and emotionally stirring. Highly recommended!
The Columbia Review of Books and Film
Goldstein (The Second Coming, 2014) offers an illustrated story in verse about a flea searching for a safe place to live.
Finnegan T. Flea is a parasite, but this story asks readers not to hold that against him. He takes no more blood than he needs to survive, and never spreads diseases on purpose, but he’s still hated in a way that similarly predatory humans are not. He makes his home on the back of a cat in a monastery, but when the monks attempt to exterminate him, he leaps from cat to monk to donkey to head outside. At first, he’s excited by the prospect of freedom, but he soon realizes that the world is a very dangerous place for a flea, with forces that wish to harm him at every turn. The story travels to some dark places, and by the end, it’s clear that whatever the sins of a flea might be, they don’t begin to equal the rampant brutality of the world he lives in. Goldstein tells his tale in an odd, irregularly rhyming verse that seemingly attempts to evoke epic poetry and slam poetry at the same time. Although this is an attractive conceit in the abstract, the author never settles on a standardized meter or rhyme scheme, which makes it far less satisfying than it might have been. The narration feels more improvised than carefully composed, and while it might be impressive if performed out loud, it makes for a difficult, awkward read. The politics of Goldstein’s fictional world turn out to be more extreme than they appear at the outset: His larger theme is the violence that men do to animals, and to one another, and his conclusions aren’t optimistic. The author also draws connections to slavery and genocide, which may invigorate some readers, but others may roll their eyes. Grinager’s full-color artwork is the book’s highlight—an impressive mix of textures that’s alternately bright, creepy and oddly stirring. Overall, the odd power of this book lies in the contrast between its arresting imagery and its inherently light verse.
A quirky, distinctly dark work with faltering poetry but memorable images.
New Indie Reviews
“OF FLEAS AND FLEADOM: A Tale of Two Vermin”
by Lewis Goldstein and Arianna Grinager
Having read another of Mr. Goldstein’s wonderfully witty and funny book (The Second Coming, The Last Parable of Jesus), I knew I’d love this one and I wasn’t wrong. While it is different than the other – more of a comic book or picture book format rather than a novel, it still tells a cute and surprisingly moving story about the adventures of Finnegan T. Flea. It’s not for the kiddies though, as this flea gets “busy”, and with the picture to prove it. And the Illustrations were amazing!!! (5 stars) Karen Matthews- Indie Book Reviewers; Goodreads; Librarything; Shelfari; Barnes & Noble
Another fantastic and fun read by Lewis Goldstein. Such a strange and oddly engaging story about, yup… a flea! Never thought I’d care much about a flea’s life or his adventures, but this was a fun ride and I found myself rooting for Finnegan. The pictures were so good! And the text flowed and rhymed nicely. Enjoyed. (4 stars). J.T. Thomas- Indie Book Reviewers; Goodreads; Librarything; Shelfari; Barnes & Noble
A fast, easy, and downright fun read, “Of Fleas and Fleadom” was a different sort of book for me as it is more like a graphic novel than a regular book, with the story being told in pictures and smaller chunks of rhyming text telling the trials and tribulations of a flea. And bizarrely enough, it totally worked! I’m impressed with this author’s ability to create such an original story and make us actually care about a flea. Happy he found his “fleadom”! (4-5 stars). James Masters- Indie Book Reviewers; Goodreads; Librarything; Shelfari; Barnes & Noble
This is a fast read, but thoroughly entertaining! I’d just read another book by this author, and although this one is different, it still has the razor-sharp wit and humor. In fact I was impressed by his ability to tell a cohesive tale in a poetic way, and in shorter space. No easy task by any stretch. He’s a natural and I look forward to reading anything he may write in the future. (5 stars). April Dawn- Indie Book Reviewers; Goodreads; Librarything; Shelfari; Barnes & Noble
“Of Fleas and Fleadom” by Lewis Goldstein was awesome. Funny and actually tells an interesting story that keeps you engaged the whole time. Loved the illustrations (flea sex? Now I’ve seen it all!!!) and liked how it all ended. A nice message with a serious yet comedic tone. Recommend for adults with a sense of humor. (4 stars) Claire Middleton- Indie Book Reviewers; Goodreads; Librarything; Shelfari; Barnes & Noble
Awwwwww… what a great story. I’m sorry, but if you can actually make me feel SORRY for a FLEA than you are GIFTED!! Haha, I hate those guys. But I LOVED Finnegan! He had quite the adventurous life for a flea, and now I’ll never look at them the same way again! (Okay, that might not be totally true). But seriously the drawings were terrific and the storyboard was clever and well written. Read it in one sitting and wished there was more! (5 stars). Stacy Decker- Indie Book Reviewers; Goodreads; Librarything; Shelfari; Barnes & Noble