Thursday, May 31, 2012

Contemporary children's book illustrators: BEA auction

Here are some samples of the more than 100 pieces of original art for children's books that will be auctioned in New York City next Wednesday at BookExpo America (BEA). The proceeds benefit the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and its defense of the free speech rights of young readers. Which work(s) would you bid on?
BEA is the annual extravaganza of the book publishing industry, featuring author signings, chi chi receptions, and media events galore. Besides hosting Booth #4322 at the Javits Center, Daedalus Books employees are fanning out to attend seminars on e-book publishing, social media, and all kinds of groovy stuff. Yours truly will be learning how to be a better blogger!
(All rights to images reserved by Annual Children's Art Auction at BEA: 2012)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fabulous Fabergé

Today's Google Doodle spotlights the house of Fabergé with their most iconic pieces: the Easter Eggs. Yesterday I visited the Richmond Museum of Fine Arts, which has the largest group of Imperial Easter Eggs outside of Russia as part of a collection of  decorative objects by Fabergé that rivals any in the country. Below is a snuffbox, a silver pitcher, and one of the Museum's eggs; you can view many more spectacular creations in this article. And for the proletarian way to enjoy such baubles in your own home, have a look at Artistic Luxury: Faberge, Tiffany, and Their Contemporaries: A Book of 28 Postcards.

Imperial Czarevich Easter Egg, 1912. Lapis lazuli, gold, diamonds, platinum or silver 5.75 x 4 (diameter) in. (on stand)
Detail of Imperial Czarevich Easter Egg
Snuffbox, 1899–1908. Aventurine quartz, feldspar, diamond, ruby, emerald, sapphire, pearl, enamel; 1 x 2.5 in.
Rabbit Pitcher. Before 1899. Silver, garnets. 10 x 4 (diameter) in.
 Which egg do you covet?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A facsimile Alice and a pricey study aid to Faulkner

In November 1864, Alice Liddell received a book bound in morocco leather with the inscription ‘A Christmas gift to a dear child, in memory of a summer’s day.’ It  commemorated an outing in July 1862, when a small party that included Alice, aged 10, and her sisters Edith and Lorina rowed down the Isis river at Oxford as their friend Charles Dodgson spun a fantasmagoric tale of rabbit holes, shape shifting, and verbal whimsy. The book was titled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, and Dodgson had worked on it for two years, fashioning 37 illustrations which he interspersed in the handwritten manuscript. Later the story was edited, expanded, and renamed, with the familiar illustration by John Tenniel, but this original version remained in Alice's hands for 60 years. It passed to private collectors until it was donated to the British Library, where it remains one of their most prized possessions. You can flip through the entire book here.
The Folio Society, whose offerings always brings an onset of book lust, has a splendid facsimile edition (left) that will set you back a mere $180. If your house lacks a copy of the Alice in Wonderland version of the story, we have one for $3.98.
This description of their new edition of The Sound and the Fury describes how the Folio Society pulled off an amazing literary and typographic coup to have the book printed as Faulkner envisioned:
The Sound and The Fury is acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of 20th-century literature. It takes the modernist narrative devices of stream-of-consciousness, time-shifts and multiple changes of viewpoint to an unprecedented level of sophistication. Faulkner was well aware that readers would find it difficult, and employed italic and roman type to convey its ‘unbroken-surfaced confusion’, but when his agent attempted to standardise and simplify the system this prompted an angry objection from Faulkner. He quickly jotted down eight time-levels in Benjy’s section, ‘just a few I recall’, and wished that it could be ‘printed the way it ought to be with different color types’, but he concluded pessimistically, ‘I don’t reckon … it’ll ever be printed that way’.
The Folio Society determined that it could be printed that way, and drew on the expertise of two noted Faulkner scholars to work on fulfilling Faulkner’s idea. Stephen M. Ross and Noel Polk undertook the painstaking task of identifying each different time-level to be coloured, while keeping the original italic/roman shifts. We can never know if this is exactly what Faulkner would have envisaged, but the result justifies his belief that coloured inks would allow readers to follow the strands of the novel more easily, without compromising the ‘thought-transference’ for which he argued so passionately.
Would having this edition encourage you to read the book?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day edition

How are you all passing this holiday? Cookouts ... movie marathons ... sports .... chores? I'm in Richmond VA, for sightseeing and museum going—staying at a very old courtyard-type inn called Linden Row that goes back to 1816. Edgar Allen Poe played here with the children of the property's original owner. During and just after the Civil War, several of the row houses were used as girl's schools: The Southern Female Institute and Mrs Pegram's. One young lady of the time later recalled seeing Jefferson Davis ride by on his horse.
In the late 19th century, Miss Randolph's School boasted two famous sisters as alumna, both of them beauties. Out of 60-some suitors, quintessential Southern belle Irene Langhorne (middle row) married Charles Dana Gibson and was the prototype for the "Gibson girl,"while Nancy Langhorne (pictured below in a drawing and painting by Sargent) became Lady Astor, a Viscountess and the first female member of the British Parliament.
Linden Row Inn facade

Another highlight of Richmond for military and history buffs is the Civil War Museum, where the conflict and its sources are looked at from the perspective of the Union, the Confederacy, and African Americans of the time. Housed in a restored gun foundry on the banks of the James, the museum (which also offers virtual tours) is located near the place on the river where slave ships docked more than 150 years ago. If the Civil War is something you'd like to bone up on, we have dozens of books and DVDs looking at this monumental dividing line for America from many different perspectives. (Below, drum belonging to the 10th cavalry of African American "Buffalo Soldiers" from the museum's collection.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pitch black, pitch-perfect noir

There were a few pieces of jewelry and, still entwined around the skeleton's neck, a tarnished gold cross on a chain. Most of the woman's clothing had long ago rotted away and almost unrecognizable too was a book— a leatherbound Bible?—close beside her. About the partly detached , fragile wrist and ankle bones were loops of rusted baling wire that had fallen loose, coiled in the red moist clay like miniature sleeping snakes.
That's from "Faithless" by Joyce Carol Oates, one of three stories by women in The Best American Noir of the Century (the others are by the very creepy Patricia Highsmith and Dorothy B. Hughes, three of whose books were made into movies in the '40s). I'll readily admit noir is a man's genre, and boy can these gents deliver. The introductions steer you to other works by these award-winning authors (many of them written under various pseudonyms) and to tv and film spinoffs from their fiction (Tod Browning's Freaks and Joseph Lewis's Gun Crazy are just two examples of many). The quality is top-notch, and several of the tales (such as Tom Franklin's "Poachers") first appeared in literary magazines such as Texas Review, American Mercury, Southern Review, Saturday Evening Post, and Omni. There's a fair amount of crossover with the mystery genre, so that many of the authors are Grand Masters and Edgar winners from the Mystery Writers of America.
This is powerful stuff, compulsively readable, with more twists and turns than a pinball machine. Here's an excerpt from William Gay's much-anthologized "The Paperhanger":
The doctor's wife's hands were laced loosely about his waist as they came down through a thin stand of sassafras, edging over the ridge where the ghost of a road was, a road more sensed than seen that faced into a half acre of tilting stones and fading granite tablets. Other graves marked only by their declivities in the earth, folk so far beyond the pale even the legibility of their identities had been leached away by the weathers.
Leaves drifted, huge poplar leaves veined with amber so golden they might have been coin of the realm for a finer world than this one. He cut the ignition of the four-wheeler and got off. Past the lowering trees the sky was a blue of an improbable intensity, a fierce cobalt blue shot through with a dense golden light.
She slid off the rear and steadied herself a moment with a hand on his arm. Where are we? she asked. Why are we here? The paperhanger had disengaged his arm and was strolling among the gravestones reading such inscriptions as were legible, as if he might find forebear or antecedent in this moldering earth. The doctor's wife was retrieving her martinis from the luggage carrier of the ATV. She stood looking about uncertainly. A graven angel with broken wings crouched on a truncated marble column like a gargoyle. Its stone eyes regarded her with a blind benignity. Some of these graves have been rob, she said.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Goodbye to Springfield's finest

The Simpsons is well and truly ended, sadly, but its legacy lives on in reruns and in the hands of webmeisters whose obsessions rival those of Comic Book Guy. This Tumbler person has begun to construct a repository of various homages to film scenes, to which we hoi polloi were probably mostly oblivious as they flashed by. I did get this one from Citizen Kane though:
The show's writers cheekily embedded many clever parodies of famous artworks into episodes, both subtly and blatantly:
 "American Gothic" revisited with Apu and Manjula
 "La Gioconda" showed up frequently; here in "Sprawl Mart" and behind the couch.
Homer, Marge, and Bart get a load of Picasso
Eduard Munch's "The Scream" appeared three times.
A dream of Homer engendered these iconic images
Both Krusty and Ned Flanders were Warholed
 Lisa contemplates a work by Joan Miro
Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" gets the Simpsons treatment
Of course, there are the 300-plus "couch gags" that opened the show. Here is a collection of one German fan's favorites:

This site shows 10 of the greatest gags, including an appearance by The Flintstones. Will you miss the little yellow family and all of their friends/enemies? What did you think of the last episode with Lady Gaga?