Posts Tagged ‘Comics’
“The imaginary is not formed in opposition to reality… it takes shape in the interval between books. It is the phenomena of the library.”*…
In the latter half of the 17th century the English polymath Thomas Browne wrote Musaeum Clausum, an imagined inventory of “remarkable books, antiquities, pictures and rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living”…
In an age of data retrieval, when just about anything ever printed can be seen online and is eternally preserved there, and when modern anxiety is fueled by too much information, we would do well to remember that the loss of books and artefacts was catastrophic until very recently in human history. The great library of the Ptolemies at Alexandria was burnt by the Romans in the first century AD, a legendary collection of ancient wisdom whose loss haunted Renaissance scholarship. European savants of the 15th and 16th centuries were, in the midst of their astonishing revival of classical writing, all too aware of what was irrecoverable and even unknown to them.
Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) was such a scholar. His vast expertise in areas as diverse as embryology, anatomy, ornithology, ancient history and literature, etymology, local archaeology, and pharmacy, and his participation in the Baconian programme to rescue learning from the misapprehensions and erasures that had accumulated since the fall of man, made him especially sensitive to such losses. Musaeum Clausum, a small tract both playful and melancholy, seems to coalesce early-modern feelings about the unavailability of precious intellectual treasure.
Musaeum Clausum (the hidden library) is a fake catalogue of a collection that contained books, pictures, and artefacts. Such collections (and their elaborate indices) were a common phenomenon from about 1500 to 1700 and afterGentlemen and the nobility collected as a matter of polite engagement with knowledge and as a way of displaying wealth and learning; savants made arrays of plants, animals, and minerals as museums or ‘thesauruses’ of the natural world to record and organise their findings; imperial and monarchical collections were princely in their glamour, rarity, and sheer expenditure: these might contain natural-historical specimens but also trinkets and souvenirs from far-flung places, curiosities of nature and art, and historically significant items. For example, taxidermically preserved basilisks shared room with a thorn from Christ’s crown and feathered headdresses and weapons belonging to native American tribes. Browne takes these traditions of assemblage and makes a catalogue of marvellous things that have disappeared…
Browne’s is one of many examples of this form, the fake catalogue. Donne wrote one; Rabelais included one in Gargantua and Pantagruel. More typically such works were outright spoofs of learned curiosity, send-ups of random assemblages that John Evelyn judged to be no more than ‘indigested chaos’. But Browne, although he recognises the absurdity of some of his own items and is obviously trying for comic effect with certain ones, is probably more interested in a philosophy of antiquities, of the past and of existing knowledge as resurrected and preserved from the ravages of time and forgetfulness…
Read the full fascinating story at always-illuminating Public Domain Review.
* Michel Foucault
As we engage encyclopedically, we might pause to send imaginative birthday greetings to Jules Ralph Feiffer; he was born on this date in 1929. A syndicated cartoonist, author, playwright, and screenwriter, he’s best known for his long-running Village Voice comic strip, Feiffer, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.
Feiffer broke into the trade at age 16 as an assistant to the immortal Will Eisner, who was at the time producing the strip The Spirit. A couple of years later, Eisner countered Feiffer’s request for a raise with the offer of a page in the comic book version of The Spirit, which Feiffer used to create Clifford, his first successful strip. His Village Voice strip ran for 42 years, and for most that period, was carried in other newspapers around the U.S. Feiffer’s plays include Little Murders (1967), Feiffer’s People (1969), Elliot Loves (1990), The White House Murder Case, and Grown Ups. And after Mike Nichols adapted Feiffer’s (unproduced) play Carnal Knowledge as a 1971 film, Feiffer scripted Robert Altman’s Popeye, Alain Resnais’s I Want to Go Home, and the film adaptation of Little Murders.
In addition to the Pulitzer, Feiffer was the recipient of a George Polk Award for his cartoons, an Academy Award for his animated short Munro, and the Obie and Outer Circle Critics Awards (for Little Murders and The White House Murder Case). He was elected in 1995 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in 2004, he was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame; that same year he received the National Cartoonists Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award; and in 2006, he received the Creativity Foundation’s Laureate and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild of America.
Larger versions of these comics, and many more, at the Walker’s MNArtists blog.
As we wax philosophical, we might recall that it was on this date in 2001 that the British government, making good on an election pledge, dropped all entry fees to 13 of Britain’s most popular government-sponsored museums, including the National History Museum and the Victoria and Albert. Shortly, others– including the Tate Modern and the Imperial War Museum– followed; and over the ensuing decade, attendance rose by over 150%.
Sometime editor of the Illustrated London News and authority on the Brontës and Napoleon, Clement K. Shorter was in the middle of a flourishing career when his list of the “hundred best novels ever written” appeared in the monthly journal The Bookman. He doesn’t explain what exactly makes a book one of the “best”, only that he has deliberately limited himself to one novel per novelist. Living authors are excluded – although he cannot resist adding a rider of eight works by “writers whose reputations are too well established for their juniors to feel towards them any sentiments other than those of reverence and regard”…
Names and dates are as Shorter gives them:
1. Don Quixote - 1604 – Miguel de Cervantes
2. The Holy War - 1682 – John Bunyan
3. Gil Blas - 1715 – Alain René le Sage
4. Robinson Crusoe - 1719 – Daniel Defoe
5. Gulliver’s Travels - 1726 – Jonathan Swift
6. Roderick Random - 1748 – Tobias Smollett
7. Clarissa - 1749 – Samuel Richardson
8. Tom Jones - 1749 – Henry Fielding
9. Candide - 1756 – Françoise de Voltaire
10. Rasselas - 1759 – Samuel Johnson
11. The Castle of Otranto - 1764 – Horace Walpole
12. The Vicar of Wakefield - 1766 – Oliver Goldsmith
13. The Old English Baron - 1777 – Clara Reeve
14. Evelina - 1778 – Fanny Burney
15. Vathek - 1787 – William Beckford
And those lucky living eight:
An Egyptian Princess - 1864 – Georg Ebers
Rhoda Fleming - 1865 – George Meredith
Lorna Doone - 1869 – R. D. Blackmore
Anna Karenina - 1875 – Count Leo Tolstoi
The Return of the Native - 1878 – Thomas Hardy
Daisy Miller - 1878 – Henry James
Mark Rutherford - 1881 – W. Hale White
Le Rêve - 1889 – Emile Zola
Read the full story and see the whole list at the TLS: “Not the hundred best novels?“
As we marvel at the power of perspective, we might recall that it was on this date in 1894 that the first multi-panel comic strip ran in a newspaper: “Origin of the Species, or the Evolution of the Crocodile Explained,” by Richard F. Outcault, appeared in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. Outcault went on to introduce the speech balloon in the wildly-popular The Yellow Kid, and later still, created Buster Brown.
As we celebrate simplicity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that Popeye met Olive Oyl (in Elzie Segar’s daily comic strip “Thimble Theater”). Olive had been a regular since the comic premiered a decade before; Popeye had been introduced 7 days before… but became so popular (both via “Thimble Theatre” and thanks to Max and Dave Fleischer’s Popeye cartoons, which began in 1933) that the strip was renamed in his honor.
(Some of) the comic stylings of Tom Gauld…
Ladies and gentlemen, You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack!
As we parse our predicaments into panels, we might recall that this was the cover date, in 1882, of the first issue of Golden Argosy, which featured stories by Horatio Alger, Jr. and Edward S. Ellis. The first “pulp” magazine in the U.S., Golden Argosy (soon renamed simply Argosy) went on to publish such authors as Frank Converse, Malcolm Davis, Upton Sinclair, Zane Grey, and dime novelist William Wallace Cook.