Book porn

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I just posted my review of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home; one of the principal features of that book is the frequency with which other books appear in it, working as signposts, ciphers, thematic echoes, and ironic commentary. I was fascinated and delighted by this internal library, and decided to go back through after my first read to compile a reading list (with particular personal interest in Alison’s self-education as a young lesbian in the 1970’s).

Here it is! I’ve annotated some of the books with quotes or notes from the book (until I ran out of steam), and included dates where they were topical. They are listed more or less in the order in which they appear in the book.

Any corrections or additions are most welcome. Go forth and read!

READING FUN HOME

Alison’s father’s Cultured Reads

Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenina
Kenneth Clark – The Nude (“I was Spartan to my father’s Athenian.” Young Alison plays soldier in the background while her father reads this in the foreground.)
John Ruskin – The Stones of Venice (“But once I was unaccountably moved to kiss my father good night.” Bruce is reading this in bed.)
Rudyard Kipling – Just So Stories (“…some encounters could be quite pleasant.” Bruce reads bedtime stories to Alison.)
Albert Camus – A Happy Death (“A fitting epitaph for my parents’ marriage.” Alison finds it suggestive that Bruce was reading this shortly before his death.)
Günter Grass – The Tin Drum (Father and mother in “expatriate splendor” in West Germany after the war.)
Ernest Hemingway – The Sun Also Rises
F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby, The Far Side of Paradise (“Such a suspension of the imaginary in the real was, after all, my father’s stock in trade.”)
Nancy Milford – Zelda
Marcel Proust – Remembrance of Things Past
Erick Rücker Eddison – The Worm Ouroboros (“Maybe that’s what’s so unsettling about snakes.”)

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I’m forever a concept-art junkie; for any fellow Saga fans, here are some concepty tidbits that I’ve enjoyed:

  • An interview with Fiona Staples, in which she discusses how she works out designs from Brian Vaughan’s descriptions (or in their absence) – since it’s not always clear to what extent an artist helmed visual development, I was delighted to learn that Staples was responsible for so many of the series’ trademarks, like its (yes yes yes) largely non-white cast, and skull- and seedpod-shaped spacecraft.
  • A set of sketches hashing out Marko and Alana’s looks (I can’t check whether these were included in the trade collection as I’ve lent mine out, so I’m including them just in case).

Go to:

Saga, Vol. 1, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (2012): review by Emera

 

Fans of Australian author-illustrator Shaun Tan, please to enjoy his very short illustrated story “Eric (presented by the Guardian), about a peculiar foreign exchange student. (Fans of Chris Van Allsburg will likely be keen on Tan’s work as well, given the resonance between their quiet, eerie, carefully rendered illustrations.) The last image made me gasp, and my skin prickle.

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Dispatches from a Troubled City (via Super Punch) is a satisfyingly varied collection of art inspired by the work of China Miéville, featuring work by nearly 20 different artists. The collection encompasses sculpture, artifacts, poster/cover design, and illustration, all almost entirely based on the Bas-Lag books, but with a couple of tributes to Un Lun Dun (my review; Kakaner’s) as well.

Favorites: Steve Thomas’ pro-avanc propaganda, Jason Chalker’s awkward-creepy-cute magus fin, and Jared Axelrod’s box of battered memorabilia from the pages of Perdido Street Station.

Go to:

China Miéville: bio and works reviewed

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I did not know this: Tove Jansson (moomin-creator) did illustrations for the 1962 Swedish edition of The Hobbit (courtesy Babel Hobbits, a repository for international Hobbit illustrations). They range from Quentin Blake-ishly sketched storm giants, to what is now my favorite rendering of the depths of Mirkwood. I don’t understand how Jansson always manages to combine qualities of both warmth and chill in her art.

Also, her Gollum is something else – towering over Bilbo, he looks unexpectedly like a wodwo or a Green Man, though I can’t think what his wreath might be made of. (Dried bats?)

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Via the ever-loyal but outrageously busy Kakaner: carved book landscapes by Guy Laramee. Mute, contemplative, eerily lit. I’ve seen my fair share of altered-book art, but as Kakaner put it, “This gives me the shivers in a good and bad way. More bad though.” (But bad in a good way, I would add!)

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Sighted in September by Boing Boing, for particularly avid Bradbury fans: a very rare asbestos-bound 1953 special edition of Fahrenheit 451, somewhat worse for the wear, but, one hopes, still somewhat safer from incendiaries, conflagrations, merry bonfires, unmerry bonfires, and other forms of fiery doom.

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On display by the Uppsala University Library: a 14th-century German book that was mended with silk thread. Looking at this gives me interestingly weird feelings: up close, the stitches are so homey in appearance (good ol’ blanket stitch!), but – especially where they were used to mend holes – simultaneously resemble biological structures or growths. Plant cross-sections, vacuoles, paramecia. I can see this being used as a springboard for an art exhibit about how we think about categories of craft/art/literature, about objectness, etc. For some reason I also just want to see an art installation of a roomful of colorful books suspended from floor to ceiling in white crocheted webbing. “Shelob Reads to Excess”?

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Sighted in the streets of Cambridge, MA – the “Little Free Library:”

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It took me a while to realize that both of these things were happening, so I hope other dark-fiction aficionados will find this helpful as well: there are two new online professional magazines for horror and dark fantasy either launched or launching this year.

One is Nightmare Magazine, founded this spring as a sister publication to Lightspeed/Fantasy, and likewise edited by John Joseph Adams.

The other is The Dark (that link has yet to go live, so here’s their Facebook page as well), currently set to debut in early October of this year, and with an editorial staff including Clarkesworld‘s Sean Wallace. Excited to see both of these venues grow.

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Ruth Franklin, Shirley Jackson’s new biographer, has written a fascinating retrospective on the angry, horrified, but mostly just bewildered mail that inundated the New Yorker following its publication of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” Interviewees include a woman named Miriam Friend, who at 97 is the last living letter-writer whom Franklin was able to trace, and Ursula K. LeGuin, whose father, amusingly, was outraged at the story mainly on the basis of anthropological improbability. (I’ve had that complaint about a fair number of other, mediocre stories built on the horrifying-hidden-pagan-sacrifice model, but Jackson writes with such chilling, borderline surreal assurance that I can’t imagine finding anything to question in her portrayal of communal brutality.)

Via The Mumpsimus.

Go to:
Shirley Jackson: author bio and works reviewed

… you have an especial awareness of your literary castoffs, or any unmet little responsibilities, amassing at the borders of your life –

tsundoku – noun – (informal) the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with such other unread books

Etymology: tsumu, to pile up + doku, to read, punning on tsundeoku, to leave piled up

Thanks to Japanese Wiktionary and my friend O.X.C. for the serious vocabulary enrichment.

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A fun gift idea for typography nerds, book nerds, or both: Litography sculpts the entire text of a classic book or drama into a single, soothingly graphical image. Check out their catalogue for posters of The Origin of Species, The Last Unicorn, Just So Stories… Below are two designs that I particularly enjoyed – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Dracula:

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