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Picturing a World


Babel by R. F. Kuang is another of my presents-to-myself. I've only read a few pages; but so far, it's a yes, even though reviews (like this one) make clear that the story is very dark. Well, black-and-white art is obviously appropriate for a noirish novel; and what I want to call attention to today is the jacket illustration by Nico Delort, shown here in two versions.

The one on the right reminded me of Andrew Davidson's illustration for Rachel Hartmann's Seraphina. Babel is set in Oxford, a city also featured John Lawrence's and Chris Wormell's wood engravings illustrating Lyra's Oxford by Philip Pullman. Another Pullman illustrator who uses woodcuts is Tom Duxbury, and Pullman himself draws decorations for his books.
Like David Wyatt's line drawings for Larklight by Philip Reeves, all these scratchboards, woodcuts, and wood engravings seem to me to have a sensibility in common. They fit a kind of fantasy, whether steampunk or not. Some are clearly retro and some spring more from 20th C fine art by Reynolds Stone and others. The question is, could thinking of pictures along these lines (pun!) influence imagination and writing?

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