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Picturing a World

Gurney on imaginative fiction

Blog post alert: Author-illustrator James Gurney has posted a Q&A on his world of Dinotopia well worth reading. He makes the point, for instance, that fully illustrated books are immersive and provide triggers to deepen the reader's involvement in imagining that world. One answer to a question, however, startled me.
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Jacket design

Website alert: I'm a sucker for Philip Pullman's fiction and Chris Wormell's art, so I was tickled by a Pullman tweet on a 25th Anniversary edition of Northern Lights. But what really interested me as I poked around from there was an earlier website piece on How Tom Sanderson designed Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage. Authors and illustrators get a lot of attention. Jacket designers don't, but their craft is essential to an attractive book. If you're interested in how it's all done, read the article!

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Katharine Cameron

I'm reading The Fairest of Them All by Maria Tater (2020), and naturally the first thing I did was look at all the pictures. The blue-and-white vase in this one caught my eye because I have a friend who is an expert on blue-and-white china. It amuses us both to come across it in odd contexts—in this case, a picture of Snow White's stepmother by Katharine Cameron from Louey Chisholm's In Fairyland (1904). That date for a children's book puts it squarely in my character Mattie's world, and Cameron just might be someone for Amy Richardson to know if I decide to follow Amy's story.

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Sketches for Flyaway

Kathleen Jennings, early story sketches for Flyaway

Blog post alert: Readers of this blog know how much I admire Kathleen Jennings' illustrations, writing, and Taunadel blog. Reading an essay at Tor.com, Illustrating Flyaway: Kathleen Jennings on Creating Art and Prose Together, has me wondering whether those of us with no art training could nevertheless doodle our way to visualizations that move our fiction. Worth a try! And do read Illustrating Flyaway: it has great pictures of finished work and silhouettes as well as sketches, adn you can get a high-rez version of this early-sketch page.

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Belle da Costa Greene

Who knew?!? Maybe you did, but I sure didn't know that J.P. Morgan's private librarian and eventual first director of the great Morgan Library in New York was a woman. Not only that—a woman of African-American descent. Belle da Costa Greene. I have just run across her in what might seem an unlikely source, Christopher de Hamel's endlessly entertaining and deeply informative Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts. The connection, of course, is a manuscript in the Morgan Library. But that's another story for another day.

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Hamnet

As promised, now that I have finished reading Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet, here are some reactions. First three quickies: Is it a convincing exercise in historical imagination? No. Is it convincing as fiction? Yes. Could it stand on its own as a story for a reader who knew nothing about William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway? Hmm.

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Flapper Queens

Wouldn't Wells and Wong love it!?! And I expect to. This illustration is from Rachel Cooke's review of The Flapper Queens by Trina Robbins. The idea of jazzy female cartoonists opens a new world for me to think about in connection with my character Mattie's future in the New York publishing world. So, yes, I ordered it from my local independent bookstore. And for more sample pages, click here.

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Murder is Bad Manners

I'm working on a longer response to Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet, but first I want to give a rousing cheer for Robin Stevens' Murder is Bad Manners (American title). An article in the Guardian led me to her Murder Most Unladylike series. I think it is going to help me endure this election season. You can't say better than that! Positively ripping.

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Flyaway

Kathleen Jennings is the first to say that her new short novel, Flyaway, is not for everyone. But if you are a fantasy-fiction aficionado, yes. If you keep an eye on the arts Down Under, yes. If you are a fan of illustrated books and especially Jennings' own silhouettes, yes. If you are interested in how to adapt traditional European folklore to modern settings in the rest of the world, yes. And if you want to observe a skillful unfolding of one plot (the gothic story) that at the same time explores a quite different center of emotion (a damaged yet potent friendship), yes.

 

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Live and learn

I began reading the highly praised historical novel Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell and frowned in the second chapter when "the tutor" sees a woman he mistakes for a servant carrying a hawk on her arm. Fat chance! I thought. Hawking was for the gentry, not servant girls; nobody would confuse the ranks that badly. And when O'Farrell further specifies that the hawk is a kestrel, I was even more annoyed. I've seen kestrels diving through hedges and they seem too small to train for hawking. To prove to myself she had made one of those bloopers historical fiction writers dread, I Googled and found—well, that I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

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