Sunday 4 October 2009

Tom Spurgeon contemplates an article from a couple of months back: On The Subject Of Return Reading
"The author and music writer David Gates penned an article this summer for Newsweek -- where I think he's a staffer -- on the pleasures of re-reading. Gates seems to view re-reading as way to spend time in the company of memorable characters that have touched him in his lifelong give-and-take with literature."
..and selects his favourite handful of books for reading again. Coincidentally, today I just finished reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for the second time. I picked it up to momentarily derail my brain from an irritating subject and then wrote off most of the weekend in its company.

"In the immemorial style of young men under pressure, they decided to lie down for a while and waste time."

"Dinner was a fur muff, a dozen clothespins, and some old dish towels boiled up with carrots. The fact that the meal was served with a bottle of prepared horseradish enabled Sammy to conclude that it was intended to pass for braised short ribs of beef. Many of Ethel's specialties arrived thus encoded by condiments."

"The pyjamas were patterned with red pinstripes and tiny blue escutcheons. Sammy was wearing a pair that had red escutcheons with blue pinstripes. That was Rosa's idea of fostering a sense of connection between father and son. As any two people who have ever dressed in matching pyjamas will attest, it was surprisingly effective."

It's a wonderful book, and I thought Chabon spoiled things a little by allowing Dark Horse to adapt the Escapist, the comic book character invented by the two young men, into an actual comic book series. I wasn't dismayed enough however to turn down the opportunity to do my own version of the character. This was in 2005, and in the same issue as the last thing drawn by the late Will Eisner. Dan Best wrote the story, which was set at the 1940 Empire City World's Fair, an approximation of the famous NY one. The Escapist has to get himself out of the time-capsule. The New York one was just a couple of feet high, but this one was big enough to imprison a person inside along with the other stuff that was being salted away for future rediscovery a thousand years later. Actually, we didn't know the NY one was so small until we had already committed ourselves. I found a load of old pictures of the NY Fair, which fascinated me for their oddly tinted colours, which I presume are a result of the aging of printing inks, or the yellowing of paper, or the imperfections of early colour photographic reproduction processes, or all of the above. I tried to capture the odd harmonies that I saw in the old photos:

It was twelve pager, but Michael suggested a sharper ending (showing the opening of the time capsule a thousand years later and the odd thing that was found there) that required us to add a thirteenth page. I was glad to see him tinkering with the stories, like I'd hoped Eisner would have done with the New Adventures of the Spirit, though I'm sure his Pulitzer prize-winning time would have been better spent working on his next novel.

Related: I just noticed that there's an excellent portrait of Michael Chabon by Tom Yeates currently at the top of Steve Gettis' Hey Oscar Wilde page
Previous posts on Chabon, including the last that was heard of a possible movie adaptation of Kavalier and Clay.

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Blogger spacedlaw said...

It is a lovely book, one I might read again one day. There is just so much in it.

5 October 2009 at 00:58:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Nulsh said...

Never read the book in question. Got me intrigued now though.

I re-read The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut almost yearly. I just love the book. My friend Lynn hassled me to read it years ago - and I tried several times but couldn't get past the first few paragraphs as I thought it was pretentious shite.

One day my 4 year old son was down with a virus and I was reading to him - from the first book that came to hand -Sirens of Titan. I grudgingly started reading aloud - my son falls asleep and two hours later I'm still reading aloud. Read it all night, and that was me hooked.

I read it sometimes as allegory and sometimes just a pure (human) story.

Think I'll dig it out tonight.

5 October 2009 at 08:30:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Jason Michelitch said...

Is it possible that photography may be a colored b/w photograph as opposed to a color photograph? I'm no expert on the medium, so you may have a ready reason why that couldn't possibly be the case.

5 October 2009 at 12:25:00 GMT-5  
Blogger john adcock said...

The oddly tinted colors in the sample postcard you show were probably the result of the use of an airbrush rather than yellow paper and aging inks. The airbrush was widely used in commercial art and illustration in the thirties and forties.

5 October 2009 at 19:31:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Nicki Greenberg said...

I rarely re-read prose books, as there are so many still on the To Read pile demanding my attention. But coincidentally I DID re-read Kavalier & Clay this year as well. It is wonderful, wonderful, and worth multiple reads.

7 October 2009 at 03:41:00 GMT-5  

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