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Picturing a World

Medieval mice take the castle!

The solid black silhouette startled me first when I saw a stick figure in a 14th C bas-de-page illustration. I can't remember ever seeing anything like it in a medieval manuscript. Then I realized it was a mouse. A mouse with a catapult! A mouse attacking a castle! A castle held by a cat? Turn the page and there's more. It's really like a cartoon strip running along the bottom of eight pages of this 14th Book of Hours. The sense of humor is recognizable from the period; so is a narrative sequence in these decorations. But those black mice! Something for fantasy or historical fiction, for doggerel verse or a children's book (provided, I suppose, that you brought the cat back to life), or, for that matter, a little serious historical research.
 

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Nine steps to a ghost story

A look at Christmas ghost stories this year somehow sent me to Tales of Moonlight and Rain by the 18th C Japanese master, Ueda Akinari. In his introduction, the translator, Anthony H. Chambers draws on an analysis of Chinese stories about anomalies—the weird, the uncanny, the ghostly—to derive a typical structure for Akinari's tales (see pp. 22–24). Following it step by step can turn into a dandy writing exercise.

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Wormell illustrations, Lyra's Oxford

I was so taken with Chris Wormell's illustrations for Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, that I pre-ordered their new collaboration on Lyra's Oxford even though I treasure a first edition of the 2003 book with John Lawrence's woodcuts. The new one will be out soon. You can get a taste of it at Take a Look at Lyra's Oxford. Incidentally, The Artworks website looks like a source of inspiration for story ideas or details. More soon.

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Ancient ghost

Blog post alert: Alert, alert! Ancient ghost discovered on Assyrian exorcist's cuneiform tablet! That it was found it at all is marvellous. That there were magicians and exorcists with libraries 3,500 years ago –well, how's that for inspiring historical fantasy?

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Klages’ Franny Travers

I'm having fun. One by one, at intervals to stretch it out, I'm reading stories in Jonathan Strahan's anthology, The Book of Dragons, illustrated by Rovina Cai. Recently, I read "Pox" by Ellen Klages, an author new to me. I loved it, and what a great pleasure to find that one of the delightful characters, Franny Travers, also appears in Klages' novella, Passing Strange.

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Hobbit houses?

Look! the Holy Austin Rock Houses that may well have inspired the invention of hobbit holes. It would have been more delicious to stumble across them unexpectedly on a walking tour of England, but I'll settle for glimpses on the web. You can find out more here. And visit what looks like a nearby troll hole here. As for today, Happy Bilbo and Frodo Bagginses' Birthday!

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Vess on illustration

Blog post alert: As soon as I saw Charles Vess's illustration for Joanne Harris's story, "The Barefoot Princess" at Myth and Moor, I ordered a copy of their book, Honeycomb (from a local independent bookstore, naturally). Then I poked around and come upon Honeycomb – An Interview with Charles Vess.

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Fantasy illustration show

Upcoming exhibition alert: Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., June 12 through October 31, 2021. Tickets are required; you can make reservations now at the website.

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Lady and the devil

While I was chasing the Green Man in March, I bookmarked Facing sin: late medieval roof bosses in Ugborough church, Devon, a 2015 article by Dr. Susan Andrew. Going back to it, I found this image of an elegant lady with a devil draped over her head.

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Miereke Nelissen’s Oz

Just as appealing as Miereke Nelissen's animals are her illustrations for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—or more precisely for De tovenaar van Oz. Lisabeth Zwerger's version may have influenced Nelissen. Certainly Zwerger made clear that a modern sensibility can work wonders divorced from more traditional variations on W. W. Denslow's first-edition illustrations (see, for example, those of Scott Gustafson and Michael Hague and 25 more).

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