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Picturing a World

Book and illustration (4): Lost Words

Jackie Morris's superb paintings and Robert MacFarlane's intriguing "spells" combine in The Lost Words to make a book that is greater than the sum of its equally splendid parts. You would treasure a print of any of the pictures; you might memorize one of the clever acrostic verses (spells as MacFarlane punningly calls them) to chant against the evils of our days. Together with the book's size, depth of color printing, and lovely page design (including a set of puzzles that delight once you figure out what they are doing), they combine into a classic.

 

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Book and illustration (3) Gently Falling Snow (again)

Throughout December, I treated myself to slowly working through Jackie Morris's Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow, which was as wonderful as I had hoped. Now with Christmas behind me, I am going through it again, and it's better than ever.

 

In a post at Folklore Thursday, Some Words about the Quiet Music, Morris tells how the book originated in designs for Christmas cards in support of Help Musicians UK and how the imagery led to stories. And not only hers: "The cards began to gather their own stories, connections made between those who sent them, received, later found cards."

 

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Book and Illustration (2): Gormenghast

An author may collaborate with an artist to produce a book (see my previous post on L. Frank Baum and W. W. Denslow). Authors who also draw or paint as amateurs may produce illustrations either skillful enough or charming enough to be used by their publishers (e.g., J. R. R. Tolkien and Arthur Ransome). It's something altogether different, however, when an accomplished artist uses sketches and drawings as part of the process of writing a novel. I'm thinking of Mervyn Peake because I've just been reading his Gormenghast novels.

 

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Book and Illustration (1):The Wizard of Oz

As a lover of illustrated books, I've been thinking about how their stories and pictures relate. Which has primacy, the text or the illustration? One quick criterion: the text is likely to be supreme if it has been illustrated by more than one artist—even if the original illustrator worked closely with the author.
 
Take the example of L. Frank Baum and W. W. Denslow. They worked as a team on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and held joint copyright. An article in the online Public Domain Review, which publishes a selection of pages from that first edition, shows just how delightfully successful they were in blending story, picture, and page design. The edition I grew up with had a set of illustrations by Eveyln Copelman, which were commissioned by Bobbs Merrill after World War II to take advantage of the popularity of the Judy Garland movie. Even as a child, although I loved the book, I wasn't that crazy about these pictures.

 

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Herminie Waternau’s Paris

Blog post alert: Herminie Waternau (1862–1913) would be an almost exact contemporary of my character Jeanette in Where the Light Falls. Her courtyard study shown here was made in 1908, the year in which my work-in-(very slow)-progress about Jeanette's sister Mattie is set. You can understand why I was fascinated to learn about her this morning! Four of her Parisian pictures illustrate James Gurney's post on 100,000 high-resolution images newly released by Paris museums. Check out Gurney, check out Waternau's Paris.

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Scale-model hospital

Blog post alert: Another scale model! This one from 1932 of a London hospital. As a bonus, all the images at the History Blog's World's largest medical galleries open at London's Science Museum can be greatly enlarged. Click on the pediatric ward here, for instance, and then click again for a high-rez image of marvellous, story-telling tiles on the walls. Again, useful for historical fiction writers.

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Petticoat Lane diorama

Blog post alert: An illustrated Spitalsfield Life post on rediscovered dioramas of Petticoat Lane will delight anyone who loves scale models, dollhouses, miniatures, and such. They can also give valuable visual clues to historical fiction writers. Enjoy!

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Whole world kin

Blog post alert: Terry Windling's Myth and Moor post on The Language of the Earth explores with Robin Wall Kimmerer the need for English to fashion language that recognizes the animacy of the world and integrates humans into the continuum of life instead of dividing "us" from "it." The post is illustrated with many images from Catherine Hyde's new almanac, The Hare and the Moon—which I have just ordered for myself.

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2020—Think Global, Act Local

A cold has given me permission to lie back and read for the last couple of weeks, which might otherwise have been filled with more holiday activities. Over the last few days, it's been Barry Lopez's deeply thoughtful Horizon alternating with Arthur Ransome's gloriously escapist Peter Duck. As we head into the fraught new year, we all have to decide how much of the world's weight we can bear individually, what we can do to make life better for life on earth, and how to refresh our spirits in order to be able to carry on. Funny how the same old advice is the basic wisdom we need: We can't all be worldwide witnesses like Lopez, but we can each choose a few issues that matter to us and try to make a difference locally. And we can recognize the necessity to nourish our spirits by occasional dips into whatever sends our imaginations soaring. Gird up, everybody. Think global, act local, read well, and Happy New Year!

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