Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Great Illustrations Edition 2

1. Professor H. M. Wogglebug, T. E.

2. The Man Who Lost His Head

3.Mrs. Raccoon

4. The Gump

5. The Straw Ox

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Great Illustrations Edition

After spending the afternoon walking the hallways of the past, my mind was dwelling again on old influences, and I decided to make a few scans from some great old books from my youth. Here for consideration are five of them. Click on the pictures for closer looks.

1. From Thaddeus Jones and the Dragon, written and illustrated by Jerry Hjelm. Dudley writes a letter to the King.

2. From The Visitors From Oz, by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Dick Martin. The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Jack Pumpkinhead, and Professor Wogglebug consult the Map of Oz and its surrounding countries. These are all established from later books after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

3. From The Sea Monsters Around Us, by Lois and Louis Darling. Nessie emerges from the loch.

4. From Thaddeus Jones and the Dragon again. Meteoras checks his recipe for Instant Magic.

5. From Walt Disney's The Adventures of Mr. Toad. Adapted by John Hench, illustrations attributed to "The Walt Disney Studio." Some really good artist has been fiddled out of his credit. Mr. Toad waxes eloquent on the grandeur of his home.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

10 Books A Day: Supplement On July 6

A list of books bought and (mostly) read since my last update, entered for the record.
The History of Middle-Earth Index, by Christopher Tolkien. An index co-ordinating all the names in all twelve volumes of The History of Middle-Earth. As such a rather dry reference tome, but absolutely necessary for a Tolkienut.
The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Volume I: Charmed Life & The Lives of Christopher Chant; The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Volume II: The Magicians of Caprona & Witch Week; The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Volume III: Conrad's Fate & The Pinhoe Egg; Mixed Magics; by Diana Wynne Jones. All the books (so far) in her stories of the nine-lived enchanters called Chrestomanci. The Chronicles contain two books each, and Mixed Magics is a collection of four short stories.
Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones. Sequels to Howl's Moving Castle.
The Unseen University Challenge: Terry Pratchett's Discworld Quizbook, by David Langford. Fiendishly nitpicking trivia challenges for smartypants who think they know all about it: it took me down a peg or three.
The Black Hole of Carcosa, by John Shirley. A little paperback that has intrigued me a long time because it contains Ivan Stang and J. R. "Bob" Dobbs as characters.
Lovecraft: A Look Behind The Cthulhu Mythos, by Lin Carter. A snapshot of the state of Lovecraftian studies as they appeared at the beginning of the 70's, by a great fanboy.
Videohound's Dragon Asian Action And Cult Films, by Bryan Thomas. Big thick brick of a book got for two bucks in HalfPrice's clearance section. All one needs to know on action films, anime, and big rubber monster movies from the inscrutable East, up to about 2002.
Into Hot Air: Mounting Mount Everest, by Chris Elliott. Another "novel" (as he puts it), this one mixes mountain climbing, celebrity causes, Yetis, Buddhist monks, and insane adventure into a heady brew of yucks. One of the few books that I actually laughed out to loud while reading.
Defining The World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary, by Henry Hitchison. Another book on the perennially interesting topic (to me) of Dr. Johnson's world.
Dickens' Fur Coat and Charlotte's Unanswered Letters: The Rows and Romances of England's Great Victorian Novelists, by Daniel Pool. A sort of sequel to his What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew.
The Firelings, by Carol Kendall. The third in her Minnipin books, a sort of prequel, I guess, but it's kind of hard to tell, because the world seems so different. Unless someone had told me it was part of the series, I wouldn't have known.
The Stones of Green Knowe, by L. M. Boston. The last in her Green Knowe books, this is the one that explains how the old house actually comes to be built, and the magic that infuses it.
Four Freedoms, by John Crowley. His latest novel, totally non-fantastic, telling about life in WWII-era America in a plane building complex and the company town that supplies it.
The Ebb Tide, by James P. Blaylock. The latest of his Langdon St. Ives books. It's more of a longish short story, but it includes good illustrations by J. K. Potter, and the introduction of a winning new character, young Finn. In an afterword, Blaylock introduces the conceit that he is merely publishing the St. Ives book from manuscripts he found in a garden shed in England.
Wizardry And Wild Romance, by Michael Moorcock. "A Study Of Epic Fantasy." Moorcock's opinions on the genre he made his name in and now seems to mostly despise. Famous for the chapter "Epic Pooh," on why he thinks Tolkien's work to be pernicious to True Art.
El Borak and Other Desert Adventures, by Robert E. Howard. Pretty much what it says it is.
One Half of Robertson Davies; The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies; A Voice From The Attic; and Discoveries: Early Letters 1938-1975, by Robertson Davies.
Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, by Sabine Baring-Gould. Published in 1894, and since used as a mine for ideas by authors from James Branch Cabell to Tim Powers.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Long Has Paled That Sunny Sky

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July--
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear--
Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream--
Lingering in the golden dream--
Life, what is it but a dream!
--Lewis Carroll, 1832-1898
On July 4, 1862--a date, as W. H. Auden declared, is "as memorable a day in the history of literature as it is in American history"--Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known by his pen name of Lewis Carroll) and his friend the Reverend Robinson Duckworth took the three Liddell sisters (daughters of a University friend) on a three-mile rowing trip up the Thames. The middle daughter, Alice Pleasance Liddell, who was ten, along with her sisters demanded a fairy tale to fill in the duller stretches of the journey. Dodgson begin spinning the story of Wonderland, using Alice herself as the main character. The facility and felicity with which he told the tale made Duckworth ask him if he really was making it up extempore. Some months later (again at Alice's insistence) he wrote the tale down, adding his own illustrations, and some time later published Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. This was followed by the sequel Through The Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. At the end of that book, this haunting acrostic poem appears, the first letter in each line spelling out the full name of Alice Pleasance Liddell. The above photograph of the real Alice was taken by Dodgson himself; as you can see she had straight dark hair, not the wavy golden curls that the illustrator John Tenniel gave the literary Alice.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I Can't Believe It Worked

A little amateur video about my childhood memories and memorabilia.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fantastic Artists

I recently got two art books. Both were about artists, born in the Thirties, who became major illustrators for a period of Fantasy publishing.

Gervasio Gallardo was born in Barcelona, Spain. He had a successful career as a commercial artist with a flair for surreal imagery before being asked to work for Ballantine Books in 1969 as a cover illustrator for their new Adult Fantasy series. Although he began most covers by being provided with a detailed sketch from Robert Blanchard (then art director at Ballantine), it was his own style--described by Betty Ballantine as a "combination of exquisite detail, imagination and technique" where "the minutae of his flowers, grasses, butterflies, lilies, jewels, trees, insects, shells, fish, and all the incredibly rich and gorgeous images he uses" became "a signature which fantasy fans recognized immediately." Although I came to reading fantasy novels some time after he finished producing for Ballantine, I soon found in my searching through used bookstores that any book sporting his style was well worth consideration.

Darrell K. Sweet, on the other hand, was going strong well through the Eighties and Ninties when I most active sweeping the stores for new reading. Sweet produced covers for works by Stephen R. Donaldson, Katherine Kurtz, Piers Anthony, Terry Pratchett, and J. R. R. Tolkien, as well as many others. Sweet's style also compelled my attention; it's combination of realistic approach and fantastic subject are in direct contrast to Gallardo's surrealism, but fits the style of the fantasy being written at the time as opposed to the more lyrical approach of the older classic works that Gallardo illustrated. The art book dedicated to his work, Beyond Fantasy, includes work done on totally realistic themes, and shows a fine eye for detail and composition.

These books join a small clutch of volumes on my shelves about artists, along with the likes of Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parrish, Arthur Rackham, Norman Rockwell, and the Brothers Hildebrandt.