An article, "This is a wake-up call': Booker winner Paul Lynch on his novel about a fascist Ireland, prompts me to write briefly about Lynch's deeply immersive novel, Prophet Song. What I have chosen for today's illustration, however, is The Great War, a wordless panorama by Joe Sacco. Why? Because, given the threats that loom over us today, I've been musing lately on how art can best capture the lived human experience of the nightmares we inflict on each other and ourselves.
Picturing a World
It's the glasses. Dark glasses, no less! The medieval iconography of Moses with horns is goofy enough, but these spectacles are irresistible. The question is, What to do with the picture besides use it to expound an oddity in art history? Maybe let it provide a model for some imaginary wizard? I like the idea of substituting a goat's face for the man's.
Incidentally, the Hagenau Bible, from which the picture comes, also illustrates a moment in publishing history, the move into mass-produced books through a rationalized system within scriptoria. Might the head scribe of a magical scriptorium be a demon?
Years ago, my mother-in-law gave me a copy of Michael Ende's novel, The Neverending Story, the text of which is printed in alternating red and green. I was grateful for the giver's recognition of my tastes and tickled by the two inks; but, frankly, I hadn't given the book a thought for ages. Then an online reference to The Folio Society's new edition sent me to my shelf. Yes! my older edition was still there, and it's now in the queue for a possible reread.
Yesterday, the Authors Guild, of which I am a member and which hosts this website, sent out an update on its meeting with the Association of American Literary Agents concerning the strike by unionized workers at HarperCollins. We can all hope that federal mediation results in a decent settlement. Meanwhile, you can support the union strike fund by buying books at Bookshop.org.
One of the first jacket illustrators that I became aware of was Carol Bascove—though I didn't know she was a she. The attribution was always simply to Bascove. What I knew was that Robertson Davies' new novels were always immediately identifiable because of the jackets. The Lyre of Orpheus is on my shelf. And now, just as I've become interested in illustrative jacket design, the Norman Rockwell Museum is devoting an entire show to her work. You can catch BASCOVE: The Time We Spend with Words any time between now and June 5, 2022. Yea!
CORRECTION: The artist's name is ANNE (not Carol) BASCOVE!!!!!!!!!!
While I was Buchaning around the web recently, Rockwell Kent's art for Mountain Meadow landed me in The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920–1970 by Martin Salisbury. I borrowed a copy from the library. As soon as I opened it, I was bowled over by the feel of its paper, the beauty of its page design, the clarity of its reproductions—not to mention the quality of the jacket designs it reproduces.
I have just reread Diana Wynne Jones's Deep Secret in the 2002 paperback edition with Charles Vess's perfect cover (a favorite author, favorite illustrator). What fun, then, to find this preliminary sketch with Vess's notation, "Irene—I like this idea: the hotel lobby w/ s/f con people (as well as our principle [sic] characters) checking in as Rob the centaur bursts from air. This is a pure white background w/ design elements a la Saturday Evening Post. Charles"
Blog post alert: For an insider's look at commercial art, ghostwriting, and publishers, the always interesting Kathleen Jennings has a long interview—"Ghoulish but sentimental"—with fellow artist and writer, Socar Myles. Myles's startling artwork is gorgeous. I've never read any of her fiction, whether ghostwritten or published in her own name; but I was fascinated by everything she had to say.
Yesterday, I attended an absorbing webinar on Boston artist Sarah Gooll Putnam. Every aspect of the topic interested me (see below), and I hope it will be posted to YouTube as planned. For this blog, it introduces one more excellent, little-known woman artist. Putnam was a successful portraitist in Boston elite circles, painting in a style reminiscent of John Singer Sargent and Cecilia Beaux.
An even bigger Wow! for the historical novelist are her voluminous diaries now digitized at the Massachusetts Historical Society. In them, she recorded daily events, illustrated her entries with drawings, and supplemented them with clippings and other memorabilia. If you have a hankering to undertake a story set in Boston in the latter quarter of the 19th C or early 20th, don't miss these.