January-books

Books finished

The Accidental Creative – Todd Henry: Read on Peter Ball‘s repeated recommendation, and proving very practical as I sort out how this year is working.

The Black Sheep – Georgette Heyer: I’d forgotten I’d read this book until I reached the last few chapters (of which I’m rather fond). Mari Ness’s write-up of this on Tor.com (Almost Slumming It: Black Sheep) is, as usual, thoughtful and thought-provoking: “Miss Abigail Wendover, the protagonist of Black Sheep, is under the very understandable impression that she is in a Georgette Heyer novel.”

The Scarecrows – Robert Westall: courtesy of Kelly Link

The Seance – John Harwood: recommend and lent by Angela Slatter, with a gorgeous Niroot Puttapipat cover.

Radiance – Catherynne M. Valente, with a Will Staehle cover which perfectly captures this “decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own”

The End of a Fence – Roman Muradov: I still have no idea what happened in this little graphic novel but I liked it, and the author has confirmed that is the point. It operates slightly below the conscious level, is very beautiful, and without looking in the least like it reminded me slightly of the world of Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing.

Claiming the Courtesan – Anna Campbell’s debut novel

Assorted books in progress

Making Your Own Days – Kenneth Koch

Boy, Snow, Bird – Helen Oyeyemi

The Memoirs of Harriet Wilson – Harriette Wilson

Chocolate and Cuckoo Clocks – Alan Coren

Movies and music

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

The Big Short

Joanna Newsome concert

Thoughts

A pattern I noticed across many books I read this month was that of lies, duality, falsehood and their power to create truth, or something new and true and separate from the truth they started off from…
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Illustration Friday: Underwater

A little Illustration Friday silliness, as a reward for getting a comic finished AND all the art done and off to get mat boards cut for World Fantasy Convention. Hip hurrah.

Illustration Friday: Underwater

E Nesbit’s story “Belinda and Bellamant; or The Bells of Carillon-Land” was haunting the back of my mind for this one.

Five Daleks and It

Do we detect a theme?

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for E. Nesbit’s novel Five Children and It, (and a direct reference to H. R. Millar‘s illustrations for it) one of those “be careful what you wish for” stories which was far more entertaining than didactic.

I am probably being unfair to late 19th/early 20th century children’s novels, because in my mind they are mostly very grim, with saintly children dying and melting the hearts of neighbouring curmudgeons. I’ve realised lately that while there is some truth to this, that seed was planted by sarcastic comments in the books of some of my favourite more recent writers. The older books I’ve read usually make the transgressions – while attended by awful consequences – look not-so-secretly like jolly good fun as well. By which you can deduce I had a hearty dose of E. Nesbit, L.M. Montgomery, Susan Coolidge and Ethel Turner, growing up. Not that the last two, at least, didn’t feature their share of tragedy, but at least everyone seemed to be having a good time up until that point.

And the best lessons were never that you couldn’t fly, but that you should take reasonable safety measures beforehand.

The Dalek and the Carpet

Another E. Nesbit Dalek for the Dalek Game! This one is for The Phoenix and the Carpet, which is… probably due for a reread, because I haven’t retained this one the way I have her short stories and other novels. It is one of the more fantastical, but I remember it as less enchanting than – say – The Enchanted Castle, which only has one magical conceit, or the Bastable books, which haven’t any magic at all, but might as well be Narnia, or Harry Potter (as a matter of fact, they get a direct reference in Narnia). Have I mentioned how I love it when non-fantasy novels are so fantastical that fantasy bookstores stock them? I will next time I talk about Eva Ibbotson.

In other news: My cover for Karen Joy Fowler’s What I Didn’t See is out! Also, I am busy making paper-cut images for my contribution to a fairytale art show (among other projects), of which more anon. The date-claimer details (for Brisbane folk) are:

Once Upon a Time – Reinterpreting the Fairy Tale

16th- 25th August 2013

The Art & Design Precinct, 10 Bailey St, West End, Brisbane

http://artdesignprecinct.wordpress.com/

http://thecreativeactivists.com.au/about-us/

Melisande, or Long and Short Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for E. Nesbit’s short fairytale of wishes and mathematics, “Melisande, or Long and Short Division”, which is available at several locations online (here’s one) but is best read with all her other wonderful tales of princesses and lift operators, kings and treacly sea-serpents, plagues of yellow houses and bell-people, and towns in libraries (in towns in libraries).

In other news: Oh look! A new Dalek drawing and more to come! Also, I’m taking part in a fairytale art exhibition in Brisbane in August, and the organisers are fundraising on Pozible, should you wish to obtain an art print or other rewards (and support the Make a Wish foundation).

Illustration Friday: Future

A quick pen and ink drawing, with digital colour, to get back into Illustration Friday. We’ve had a few day-job conversations involving E. Nesbit’s The Story of the Treasure Seekers, (due to: Albert-next-door’s laconic uncle; the name-checking of the characters in the first line of C. S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew; and a delightfully unreliable narrator)  so there’s a mildly Edwardian twist to this image.

There have also, however, been several recent discussions touching on Lovecraft, which may explain the sequel image below.

Illustration Friday: Future, now with ghouls

The Dalek Downstairs

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Diana Wynne Jones’ The Ogre Downstairs. This was the last of her books which I read, and one of her earliest novels – it has the feel of slightly older British fantasy, with a strong dash of E. Nesbit in the awkwardness of real magic and the particular disasters which unfold, but a great deal of Diana Wynne Jones’ peculiar brand of oddity as well (the tragedy of the sentient toffee bars…) and some typically present and inconvenient parents.

I am ambivalent about strict rules of magic. I don’t like it being too explicable, and I enjoy the freewheeling invention of the magic in (for example) Harry Potter. I think it is better when it is slightly inconsistent. Otherwise it isn’t magic. But I do enjoy the rules of magic working against people – not so much the price of it as the price of not thinking it through. This is one of the few of DWJ’s novels which I remember for concentrating on it. I think Edward Eager may have used it in his novels, Enid Blyton certainly did, C. S. Lewis nodded to it (the trouble with rings and bells in The Magician’s Nephew), J. K. Rowling generally restrains her use of it to the experiments of enthusiastic adult wizards (with the odd flying car or humorous interlude), T. H. White hinted at the difficulties of power in Mistress Masham’s Repose, but E. Nesbit is one of the masters. Her novels are comedies of cumulative magical disasters, whether from actual magic (a magical ring of variable properties in The Enchanted Castle, the wishes granted by the sand-fairy in Five Children and It, an ill-considered application of a fairy godmother’s gift in “Melisande, or Long and Short Division”) or magic found in the everyday (the railway of The Railway Children, the get-rich-quick schemes of The Story of the Treasure Seekers).  They aren’t warnings about magic (it often, indirectly, leads to good things) but they are very vivid illustrations of the necessity of thinking through the consequences of one’s actions!

And I adore how these stories feed into and off each other, often deliberately: the consequences of power of flight or of careless handling of dragon teeth (Five Children and It and The Wouldbegoods) are both echoed in The Ogre Downstairs, the Bastables of The Story of the Treasure Seekers are name-checked in The Magician’s Nephew, which echoes the old story of the sorcerer’s apprentice, and all of them borrow from other, older stories.

In other news: I have posted a Peter Pan illustration. It is very late, but I have finished a set of illustrations and it isn’t yet midnight and the Dalek is up while it is still Wednesday, and I found a cafe for breakfast which didn’t make me bargain for scrambled eggs, and had a delightful lunch in a French bistro with a friend and a lively law-and-literary discussion with another after work over ale and liqueur coffee,  and had an idea which bodes well for the second story in a triptych. So I can’t complain too much, although I have discovered a taste for plain silken tofu, to no-one’s surprise as much as my own.