I keep buying illustrated books thinking, hmm, what an interesting compendium of mark making, technically this is a reference text…Continue reading
- Monsters! This new, Karen Beilharz-helmed anthology of comics (with sea monsters by me) is now funding on Pozible. It’s all written and illustrated but we need the pre-orders to get it printed. Rewards include a map by me. (Because it’s been asked, and Pozible isn’t entirely clear on this: if you want to help, but don’t necessarily want a book, you can enter an amount here: Pledge amount). The first comic, “Monster Hunter”, has been posted already.
- Rapunzel: Fablecroft is publishing Kate Forsyth’s PhD exegesis The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower (background pattern and cover art by me).
- Deep Dark Fears: Late to this party, but Deep Dark Fears is deliciously evocative and unsettling, and I have ordered the book.
- Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: Went twice, went with incredibly low expectations, had a ball, see it while it’s in cinemas. It’s also got a number of Easter eggs for long-term Austen fans. But I mistook Sam Riley for Kris Marshall and was confused (although not unpleasantly so).
- Science! If you like science communication and illustration, the #sciart tweetstorm is currently on.
- Two new books:
- The first translation in over 100 years of Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff, from Eagle Books (a new imprint of Christmas Press), with illustrations and gold-edged pages and just the right size to fit comfortably in the hand and handbag.
- The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the way Home, the last book of Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland books, which I will buy but which I am afraid it will hurt to read because they are so perfect in themselves that I am sure the ending will be like a knife.
- Coffee in Oxley: If you are ever in the western suburbs of Brisbane, check out Re/Love Oxley on Blunder Road – a good little cafe with an industrial shed of old and kitschy things, including pyromaniacal sewing machines.
- Cake: “If your mother didn’t make you a cake from this book she didn’t love you enough…” Or: growing up in Australia (apparently a hit in Israel too, which I did not know).
- Tremontaine! Saga Press is going to print editions of several Serial Box titles, including Tremontaine (no word on art at present).
- Writing: Finished the first pass edit of the current manuscript (the small shapely one, as opposed to the large amorphous one which is still out with friends having its flaws diagnosed).
- Pretty things: If you like them, this is my sister’s blog: Mrs M Loves.
- On looking too long at art reference: Seals are really weird and if you look at them too long it is like staring too hard at the word “walk” or “amongst”. They cease to be unique functioning objects and become gaps in the world, free-floating black holes, units of the matter before eternity. They refuse to be what you desire or believe them to be. If you gaze too long into the seal, the seal gazes back into you.
- ‘A Plot for the Annoying of the King of Spain’ – this whole stream of tweets is delightful:
- Style: Peter de Sève on artist’s style, although I believe it applies equally to any creative endeavour:
“An artist’s drawing is a catalogue of the shapes that he loves. When I’m drawing something, I’m trying to find the shapes that please me. I believe that’s what makes up what people refer to as a style.”
- Lessons learned: One thing I am repeatedly learning this year is how little you can get done in a day, and how much in half an hour.
A friend is in hospital in England avoiding anything going wrong with her baby. She is going a little stir crazy and has asked for suggestions. I can’t send a care package because it would probably arrive after the baby, so I gave her the list of suggestions below, but if anyone has more, add them in the comments and I will forward them!
Here’s my list of ten Things To Do In Hospital:
courtesy of Peter M. Ball
- Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me!”
- I will (probably, in my sole discretion, and reserving the right not to – can you tell I’m a lawyer?) respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
- You will post the answers to the questions (and the questions themselves) on your blog or journal.
- You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
- When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. And thus the endless cycle of the meme goes on and on and on and on…
1) How do you think your art practice affects the way you write?
It’s a great distraction. But it’s also complementary, because with writing it can be a really long time until you get an idea of what the finished project will look like. With art, you can get a finished product – or something that approximates it – a lot sooner, and see the skeleton any fleshing out will hang on. So art satisfies my need for (slightly more) instant gratification. But it is also another way of storytelling, and it is so much fun just hinting at things through pictures (Gorey is amazing at this) and that is something I find I am doing more with my writing – hinting, leaving gaps for the imagination to fill. Because I am interested in storytelling through pictures and words, I find that many of the lessons I learn in one bleed over into the other.
2) What’s the greatest book cover you’ve ever seen?
These are really interesting questions! Greatest… hmm. My favourite is one of the old covers to The Horse and his Boy, but greatest… That would be (for the moment) Petra Börner’s cover to Susannah Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu. It’s simple and classic and captures the deliberate manner of the book perfectly. It also reminds me of the ornate covers on Edwardian school prize books (I treat myself to a few of these at the Lifeline booksales). Petra Börner’s website is down as I write this, but there are more of her bookcovers here.
3) You achieved a somewhat insane wordcount during last years Nanowrimo – what’s can you tell us about the novel draft that resulted from such a flurry of wordcount?
It isn’t finished yet and I don’t know what’s going to happen next! But a lot more happened than I thought would and I’m getting the characters into increasingly hot water. It takes place in an England that never existed – the England that exists in the head of someone who grew up reading The Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood and His Merry Men and Ivanhoe. So far, it contains retellings (direct, indirect, discreet, alluded-to and threaded-through) of Robin Hood, Sleeping Beauty, The Princess and the Pea, Baba Yaga, the Norns, more than one ghost story, The Goose Girl and several riddles and ballads. It is ahistorical in every way I can make it, and I keep reading history to make sure of it.
4) If given the opportunity to write for a magazine, or illustrate for a magazine, which one do you choose?
Ouch. That’s a hard one. Illustrate. But that’s because I have an insanely uncomfortable chair and I get to move around more when I’m illustrating. Ask me again when I’ve got a better chair.
5) Which three illustrators most inspire you?
Pauline Baynes. Maurice Sendak. Shaun Tan.
SEVEN RANDOM FACTS
via the fabulous Leah Palmer Preiss, whose art is lovely, dark and deep. Feel free to list your own (I’m a fan of self-tagging).
- I did School of the Air, with a Flying Doctor Radio and everything!
- I’m more scared of standing on a balcony than of clinging to the side of a cliff, and more scared of riding with a saddle than of riding bareback.
- I generally try not to kill insects unless they are actually out to get me, which sometimes causes ethical dilemmas around unidentified Big Black Hairy Spiders (I have a soft spot for Huntsmen).
- Laura Ingalls Wilder (panthers), Sherlock Holmes (Hound of the Baskervilles), Azaria Chamberlain (who wouldn’t have been far off my age) and a t-shirt with a giant carnivorous zombie kangaroo (I think – it was a long time ago and the impression is stronger than the image) put me right off being outside in the dark in the Australian Bush (where, I must point out, it is Extremely Unlikely that anything will get you). Oddly enough, Wolf Creek has had no discernible effect. I think I am more scared of the highly improbable (and/or cryptozoology).
- I used to be able to hear songs – usually hymns – being sung when no-one wasn’t singing. Quite clearly, but quietly and easily drowned out by other things and very peaceful.
- I used to spell colour “coulour” and call diapers “dappies” in an attempt to keep both parents happy.
- I once chased a snake across the yard with an axe and cut it up into inch-long segments.
Illustration Friday: Soar
A clockwork horse for this week’s Illustration Friday theme.
Hitting the new year running:
February Short Book Reviews
Return to Labyrinth, vol. 1. No, no, no, no, no. This isn’t Labyrinth.
Five Names for a Guard Dog
Wind in my hair, stars in my eyes… rain in my shoes
I’d forgotten the sky could hold this much water.
August Short Reviews of everything except books, plus bonus rant about Taken
Yes, there is a new blog header.
New blog header for October!
Why yes I am doing NaNoWriMo
New blog header – a quick marker illustration messed with in Photoshop – reflecting roughly half of the month’s activities to date (the other half consisting mostly of eating cupcakes, high tea and almond croissants, and being elected president).
A rough and ready header for December because I can’t post unless the header’s done and I don’t need any more excuses not to catch up on reviews!
*I don’t know what the selection criteria are, but I think I disagree with them.
1 Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible –
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell (I’m more of a Fahrenheit 451 girl)
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman (books one and two only)
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller (started and mislaid)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (several)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot (it was set for a subject, but I wrote about Kim instead)
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables- LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley Don’t remember if I finished it
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath (unless I read it at uni)
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome (I think I have it somewhere)
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down- Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute (unless my mother read it to us and I am not confusing that with the movie)
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
1. That Sinking Feeling, the Princess Kathleen, 1952 Lena Point near Juneau, Alaska, 2. Café, 3. Truth, Lies and Betrayal (9/1939), 4. Cranberry Oatmeal with Blueberry & Flaxmeal Added, 5. Liev Schreiber, 6. Lassi Mania…, 7. Albania from the Old Fort, Corfu, Greece, 8. Our Delicious Meyer Lemons, 9. Katy Carr, 10. What if God was one of us, 11. cap’n chaos & lt. flippant, 12. Tanaudel’s Costume
Created with fd’s Flickr Toys.
1. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
2. Using only the first page, pick an image. [My version: use the first image]
3. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into this mosaic maker.
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name. (Yes, that’s me).
The Mean Seasons: Fables Vol. 5 – Willingham et. al. I am enjoying this graphic novel series so much. I spent an evening sitting in a cafe composing a post on the awesomeness of one of the main characters. The series is not unproblematic, but it’s better than a lot and it is fairytales not retold but… matured? continued? and thrown into a difficult situation they have to deal with or perish. Snow continues to be amazing, Bigby to be difficult, everyone has their own agendas and jealousies, and they are beginning to be under threat not only from the old world but from elements of the new and from their own rules. Will the triumph of democracy be a deathblow for Fabletown? Will investigative journalists expose the secret at the heart of 21st century New York? Will true love triumph? And will anyone ever cut Snow a break? I wish comics weren’t so expensive. I’m trying to not buy more than one volume of this a month, but I bought vol. 6 a week after this one.
Batman – A Death in the Family . My first actual Batman encounter other than the movies and The Daily Batman, so while I enjoyed reading it (and found the idea of readers “voting Robin off”) I don’t really have any framework within which to review it. But seeing the Joker so much gave me a jawache.
Assorted short comics acquired at Supanova – these were out of context for me, both in terms of the continuing stories and the sort of comics they are, so I won’t review them. Also, I was disconcerted by the artwork being so much weaker than what I am used to seeing and so much better than mine.
Labyrinths – Borges. Finally. And yes, he is gorgeous. He reminds me of Umberto Eco, but perhaps took himself a little more seriously. His short stories, essays and poems tread between fantasy (sometimes reminding me of Lovecraft) and philosophy, theology, impossible hypotheticals, all short enough that they leave you room to go off on thoughts of your own. I would sit on the bus pondering the relationship between his examination of ‘The Argentine Writer and Tradition’ and the cultural cringe and the landscape in Australian speculative fiction until I began to suspect the reason I was having trouble concentrating at work that week was because I was thinking too much outside it. The final poem in the collection was ‘Elegy’ which contained the very lovely line: “to have grown old in so many mirrors” which reminded me of Elliot but is both more beautiful and just as tragic.
The Game – Diana Wynne Jones. As lively and convoluted (plot and story and characters all) as any of her stories, but in other ways just as reserved. The story of the paths of the mythosphere, the interconnectedness of families and stories and myths and legends (the Sysiphus strand which reaches out to the legend of Sysiphus at one end, but closer to home is office workers dealing with never-empty in-trays), the whirling wheeling stars (which reminded me of P. L. Travers at her best) are so rich and ripe and vivid and yet DWJ holds back so much, telling only the barest part of the story and leaving the reader wanting so very much more. Not that the story is untold, but she has shown and hinted at wonders and worlds just over the edge of it and then pared back to only the core of her tale. It is incredibly frustrating. I wrote to the DWJ list that “DWJ is very good at giving the impression that there are stories spilling over the edge of the one you are reading, that there are worlds and events and tales that you can’t quite turn the page to read although you *want* to, and that she probably won’t tell you ever because they aren’t necessary to the (quite wonderful) story at hand. Lately, however, she seems to be developing this to a very fine pitch – as if she has worked out the bare minimum she needs to actually tell to convey the story she wants to tell you, while hinting at an even more voluminous universe. The story she is telling works and is very very good, but as a reader I am convinced that there is *so much more out there* that it becomes a kind of exquisite torture.” The worst part is that I know from experience that even if she does write a sequel, it will probably be about an extremely peripheral character and is unlikely to take place in the same universe.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat – Oliver Sacks. If you ever saw Awakenings with Robin Williams, Williams played Sacks. This is a series of case studies of patients with various neurological anomalies – twin savants, a ‘disembodied’ woman, a musician who ceases to recognise faces (not just the faces of certain individuals but human faces at all), people whose lives are held together with music or who can only walk upright by means of a spirit level attached to their spectacles, who recognise expression but not words or words but not expression. It is fascinating and alarming but most interesting because he treats his patients less as fascinating cases than as interesting, complicated people, whose ‘problems’ may not be problems at all, or part of a continuum of human experience. I was glad I read this after Borges, for Sacks referred to him (and particularly his story ‘The Mnemonist’) several times.
- Tickets to Vanuatu for three weeks. No guarantee will hit what aim for with hammer.
- Sepia sky.
- A moralistic and mouldering old book with beautiful cover.
- An unkept bathroom.
- Thespian judiciary.
- Sick headache probably my own fault.
- Back to blogs for pleasure not duty.
- Coconut rice.
- Cheap offcut of scraperboard.
- Tea universal panacea. Am aware of tautology but sounds better that way.
- Rain in the kitchen.
- Realised I have April reviews to do.
- Debate on correct disposition of commas.
- Early night.
The Fourth Bear – Jasper Fforde. Alright. I laughed at some of the puns (the Oddly Familiar Deja Vu Club) but it wasn’t as sparkling as the Thursday Next books. The threats weren’t threatening, the comedy sometimes felt forced. I really like fairytale retellings, but I think Fforde handled retellings of literature better. I liked Jack Spratt – I have a soft spot for hard-bitten, even noirish, policemen with complicated pasts – but he was a bit too affected by his past and I didn’t like the way his ex-wife was portrayed.
The Pinhoe Egg – Diana Wynne Jones. Another “meh”, but within the context of the rest of DWJ’s books, so that’s a pretty good “meh” : ) Although Magicians of Caprona was one of my earliest favourites, I don’t rank the Chrestomanci books as a whole among my favourites of her books. I like the characters and the world but they often leave me feeling as if there is something more behind the background, some part of the story I can’t quite get at or which is still waiting to be told. But it has a cat who walk through walls.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon. It was an odd experience reading this, because the subject matter and milieu belong to genres I am used to (comics, graphic novels, magic realism, slight surrealism) but the book itself is a Novel, which does things differently, and is a genre which seems obliged to have more gritty sexuality in it and less satisfying endings than the genres I’m used to (although, as Novels go, the ending of this one wasn’t bad). A similar thing happened with Year of Wonders which I would have liked as an Historical, Fantasy or Alternate History novel but really took against as a Novel. I liked Chabon’s style, I really liked that he anchored the characters in history and made their fictional fictional creations (The Escapist, et al) seem so real I wanted to be able to pick up one of the comics and look at Joe’s drawing, or look for references to the characters and their creations in the anti-comic literature of the time. Usually this would bother me – I often feel cheated by reading historical fiction, but this fictionalised history paralleling the real rise of the comic book hero was excellent, interesting, entertaining, helpful and gratifying. I liked the faint elements of the fantastic and can’t decide if I wanted them explained or not. I’d have a hard time lending it for reasons of certain scenes.
Also, Song of Songs, and if you want to scar your children, read this aloud as a family with parts assigned appropriately.