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Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
One of the joys of working in a bookstore is being on hand when authors come to talk about their books. Last week we were very excited about David Sedaris coming to the store. He did not disappoint, he was fabulous. As we all anticipated his talk was entertaining, funny and a tad risqué which was great fun. He read from new material and his diary entries which whetted our appetite and interest in reading his books. He was patient with the audience questions and handled them in his own magical manner. After the reading he was very patient signing and talking with his fans until close to midnight, never hurrying anyone and always funny and polite. Many people have probably read his clever pieces in the New Yorker, but last Thursday he did not throw out condoms, but talked about some of his favorite writers. I loved this. I’m always fascinated to hear what writers are reading, plus he mentioned one of my favorite authors, Tobias Wolff. The other two he passionately talked about were Adrian LeBlanc and Aleksandar Hemon. I just started Hemon’s new book of stories, Love and Obstacles. Each story is better than the preceding one, love to discover new authors. Sedaris is a charmer and a real pro at his author signing gig.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
As with just about everything, Lawrence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, A Gentleman was one of, if not the first novel to incorporate illustrations.
Here are Tristram's illustrations of the plot arcs of the preceding volumes of his novel.
And here is an illustration of a gesture one of the characters made with his cane. The sentence below reads, "A thousand of my father's most subtle syllogisms could not have said more for celibacy."
After Sterne there is a gap (at least in my knowledge) of the use of intergrated illustration in fiction until the post-modern era. The short story writer Donald Barthelme wrote story collages.
He also included simple illustrations in at least one short story, Eugenie Grandet.
Perhaps the most famous use of simple line illustrations in a novel comes from Kurt Vonnegut's novel Breakfast of Champions.
The novelist W. B. Sebald often used photographs in his novels, a technique that was recently used by Aleksandar Hemon in his National Book Award Finalist novel, The Lazarus Project. The pictures below are from Sebald's novel Austerlitz.
Larsen distinguishes himself from these predecessors with the beauty of the illustrations. The authors discussed above were writers who used illustration to communicate very particular ideas in their works. Larsen is a very talented visual artist in his own right and so his illustrations carry a depth of substance the others don't. A collection of just the illustrations from the novel would still make a good art book.
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet poses a number of challenges to the reader, but it does so in a way that's more obviously accessible than some of the other works I've mentioned. The charm of the narrator and the entertainment of the story could turn T.S. Spivet into a gateway book for people, showing readers they can be entertained and challenged by the same book.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
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