Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

11 JULY, 2011

Of Lamb: A Children’s Classic Retold for Contrarians

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What baseball player Manny Ramirez has to do with the fourth-best-selling poetry book in America.

If you combined a game of Exquisite Corpse, textual erasure, and the fantastic coloration of outsider art, you might come somewhat close to the gorgeous new book Of Lamb. Out this month from McSweeney’s, Of Lamb is a collaboration between poet Matthea Harvey and artist/illustrator Amy Jean Porter, and the sum of its parts is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

The project’s original text was a biography of the 19th-century British essayist Charles Lamb, which Harvey proceeded to white-out until only fragments and phrases remained. She then turned the much-reduced manuscript over to artist Porter, who created 106 gouache-and-ink images to illustrate Harvey’s melancholy, dreamlike poem.

Of Lamb is a work of such subtle, haunting, spellbinding beauty it is virtually impossible to describe it. Fantastical and yet, so strangely, achingly ‘real’ in its tracking of love, loss, grief, and again love” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

The titular lamb travels from Mary’s yard to a mental facility and beyond, coming into contact with former Red-Soxer Manny Ramirez, newscaster Brian Williams, and Oprah. Like the bizarre but beautiful outcome of a genetic mutation, he turns shades of bright orange, neon green, and deep blue, all the while going through a range of totally familiar human emotions.

A totally tweaked retelling of the classic nursery rhyme, Of Lamb is a singular experience that will entrance any age. And if you hunger for more children’s books for grown-ups, don’t miss our all-time favorites, in two installments.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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05 JULY, 2011

The Lost Thing: A Whimsical Story about Belonging by Shaun Tan

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What a bizarre, fantastical creature can teach us about human nature and social concerns.

Last year, I raved about The Lost Thing, a lovely cross-platform gem by acclaimed Australian author and illustrator Shaun Tan. (Who recently gave an interview only in drawings.) The film incarnation of the project won the 2011 Academy Award for best animated short film and the book, though classified as children’s literature, is an ageless treat of whimsy and quirk, telling the humorous story of boy who finds a bizarre creature at the beach and sets out to discover where it came from and who owns it, but is met with indifference by everyone he encounters. Magnificently illustrated and vibrantly poetic, the story is really about the search for belonging, a fine addition to these must-read children’s books with philosophy for grown-ups.

What started out as an amusing nonsensical story soon developed into a fable about all sorts of social concerns, with a rather ambiguous ending. I became quite interested in the idea of a creature or person who really did not come from anywhere, or have an existing relationship to anything, and was ‘just plain lost’. I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of a character that would represent how I might personally respond to this, so the unnamed narrator is essentially me.” ~ Shaun Tan

The film itself is an absolute treat, its sound effects alone a work of art:

In addition to the book, The Lost Thing is available on DVD and iTunes, narrated by none other than the brilliant Tim Minchin.

For a megadose of Tan’s genius, it doesn’t get better than Lost and Found — an anthology of three of his most beloved children’s stories: The Red Tree, The Lost Thing and The Rabbits.

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23 JUNE, 2011

Renata Salecl: How Limitless Choice Limits Social Change

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Why having more options makes us more critical of ourselves and more politically passive.

I love the work of RSA Animate. (Previously: Sir Ken Robinson on changing educational paradigms; Steven Johnson on where good ideas come from; capitalism explained five ways.) Last year, I recommended 5 essential books on the psychology of choice, and the latest RSA animation tackles the same subject through the work of professor Renata Salecl, who explores the paralysis, anxiety and dissatisfaction that come with limitless choice — a curious existential question about freedom and its flipside.

Having grown up in Eastern Europe, I can attest to this. As socioculturally toxic as communism was, before its fall, when we had to queue up for bananas once a year because that’s how rare this “exotic” fruit imported from the West was, people seemed somehow more content, more peaceful, even if that peace was really a trance state. After the initial exhilaration about democracy and capitalism in the early 90s, however, the marketplace exploded and this radical shift from extreme deprivation to extreme abundance made people ultimately more unhappy, unleashing a rapid rise in everything from crime to obesity to corruption — all expressions of the ceaselessly wanting self. Is contentment based on illusion worse than discontentment based on reality? I have no answer.

The ideology of choice is actually not so optimistic [and] it actually prevents social change.” ~ Renata Salecl

The problem is actually that today’s ideology of choice-led capitalism, the idea that everyone is a maker of his or her life, which goes very much the reality of the social situation, actually pacifies people and makes us constantly turning criticism towards ourselves instead of organizing ourselves and making a critique of the society we live in.” ~ Renata Salecl

Salecl is the author of Choice, a concise yet deeply insightful new read on the complexity of the human capacity to choose, drawing on everything from philosophy to pop culture to psychology to online dating.

via Open Culture

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