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No Man’s Land: A Meditation on Mortality and Self-Delusion from French Illustrator Blexbolex

“And still, that insinuating, ever-growing silence.”

French comic artist and illustrator Blexbolex may be best-known for his contemplative meditations on people and time, aimed at children yet agelessly delightful and thought-provoking, but he is also a masterful explorer of complex grown-up themes. No Man’s Land (public library), from London indie publisher No Brow, is a poignant satire of the mind’s well-documented gift for fooling itself and seducing us into our own hand-spun illusory realities. Printed in three spot-colors, screenprint-like, on beautiful matte paper — Blexbolex’s signature style — it tells the story of a hero spiraling into an implausible dreamland in hopeless escapism from the processes of mortality.

And still, that insinuating, ever-growing silence.

Hell. I survived hell; you don’t even have the beginning of the slightest idea.

At once an exquisitely crafted artifact and a beautiful, unsettling story, No Man’s Land is the kind of treasure chest in which you find new gems with each reading, uncover new slivers of existential truth, peel away new layers of the human condition.

Thanks, Claudia

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The Family That Dwelt Apart: Lovely Vintage Animated Film Based on an E. B. White Short Story

Misadventures in happy isolation.

E. B. White was a timeless champion of literary style, crusader for the writer’s social responsibility, vocal pundit on matters of the free press, unsuspected New Yorker cover artist, and one of my two favorite authors of all time.

This wonderful 1973 animated short film is based on White’s New Yorker story The Family That Dwelt Apart, directed by Yvon Mallette, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, and narrated by White himself.

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 47th Academy Awards, but lost to the claymation short Closed Mondays. It appears in the 1974 compilation More Animation Greats.

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Carl Sagan’s Reading List

Reverse-engineering one of the greatest minds of all time by his information diet.

“Success,” concluded this 1942 anatomy of inspiration, “depends on sufficient knowledge of the special subject, and a variety of extraneous knowledge to produce new and original combinations of ideas.” Few are the heroes of modern history more “successful” and inspired than the great Carl Sagan, and his 1954 reading list, part of his papers recently acquired by the Library of Congress, speaks to precisely this blend of wide-angle, cross-disciplinary curiosity and focused, in-field expertise — and is balanced with a healthy approach to reading and “non-reading”, with some books read “in whole” and others “in part.” (Sagan, as we know, was an avid advocate of books.)

Besides books immediately relevant to Sagan’s work as a scientist and educator in cosmology and astrophysics, he took great care to also touch on history, philosophy, religion, the arts, social science, and psychology. A small but revealing sample, fodder for your own cognitive bookshelf:

Wash down with Alan Turing’s reading list.

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