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Under The Microscope

THE PREHISTORY OF THE FAR SIDE, by Gary Larson; Andrews & McMeel 1990; 288 pages; $34.90

Gary Larson is deeply sick. Gary Larson is brilliant. It all depends on your sense of humour. There's bound to be something in this volume that will offend some and delight others.

In keeping with the spirit of this collection it begins with a tour of the fossil record (Larson's early drawings), progresses through the evolutionary process (how he developed his inimitable style), delves into the mutations (unfortunate mistakes) and examines the stimulus-response (cartoons rejected by editors and by the public).

Letters from readers and Larson's genial commentary provide insights into the humour process and make it far more than just another collection of cartoons. You could draw some interesting conclusions from the rejected cartoons or the ones which caused particular outrage. And there's a dose of surrealism in the selection which shows Dennis the Menace's captions inadvertently transposed with Larson's.

Visit any scientific establishment and you'll be surrounded by Larson pinups. The man has had a species of chewing louse named after him and he's had the grace to confess his guilt over drawing dinosaurs and hominids together. The Prehistory deserves your shelf space.

Cathryn Crane