I'll Be Dead by the Time You Read This: The Existential Life of Animals
“Fraught with doubts, broken dreams, deep desires, and heartbreaking realizations, rather than poke fun at the human condition, I’ll Be Dead unwittingly epitomizes the strength and courage that is necessary to the face the challenges that life often presents.”
At first glance, Romeo Alaeff’s collection of animal drawings paired with mostly sad and negative statements is a little off-putting and a lot odd.
From the title and the cover image, one gets the impression that the book might be a humorous collection featuring the short life spans that certain creatures are fated with. Even reading the backmatter doesn’t really prepare you for the initial impact of the material, because animals with “human emotional baggage” could be funny, too.
The collection consists of fantastically rendered drawing of various animals—from basic sea dwellers to the largest land mammals—coupled with a single-line, often bleak, statement or observation about them, their outlook or just life in general.
At first blush, seeing animals with emotional baggage just doesn’t track. Initial instinct may be to toss the book down in confusion and disappointment, while trying to suss out the meaning of a baby elephant lamenting, “It must not be love if I have to ask” or a water buffalo mournfully noting, “I’ve lost all sense of purpose.”
Though Mr. Alaeff set out to humorously illustrate the rather dramatic or fatalistic things people feel or say by using anthropomorphism, it doesn’t succeed in lightening the mood, but instead comes off as rather uncomfortable; however, Mr. Alaeff does succeed in getting into your head and making you think about the statements being made, which puts things into a whole new context; and, rather than the intended minimalization through humor, the statements somehow become amplified.
Using his wonderful artistic ability, Romeo Alaeff provides an abstract view of just how fragile the human animal is. Fraught with doubts, broken dreams, deep desires, and heartbreaking realizations, rather than poke fun at the human condition, I’ll Be Dead unwittingly epitomizes the strength and courage that is necessary to the face the challenges that life often presents.