Monday, 7 January 2013

Writing with pictures - Josh Lacey

I read three wonderful picture books over Christmas.

Only one of them is what you'd usually call a picture book - the others would ordinarily be classed as comics or graphic novels - but all three of them are magnificent examples of mingling pictures and prose, words and images, and they've made me think a lot about telling stories visually.

Of the three, the only ordinary picture book was Bark, George by Jules Feiffer, a beautifully crisp, concise and witty tale of a dog who can't bark.

Dotter of Her Father's Eyes is an autobiography and a biography mingled together; the life of the author, Mary Talbot, a British academic and the daughter of a Joycean scholar, told alongside the tragic life of Joyce's daughter Lucia.

Are You My Mother? also tells the life of two women, the author, Alison Bechdel, and her mother. Packed with references to psycho-analysis, using insights from Virginia Woolf and Donald Winnicot, among others, it's a profound, complex, clever, illuminating and fascinating dissection of a difficult relationship between a mother and a daughter.

What do these three books have in common? Not very much, apart from the way that they marry words and images so brilliantly, so perfectly. Reading them, you can't imagine the words without the pictures, or the pictures without the words; they slot together so smoothly that separating them would be barbaric. They're perfect picture books.


Sue Purkiss said...

Intriguing - I haven't come across picture books for adults, like this. Will have to hunt them out!

Penny Dolan said...

So often picture books means books for the littlies - good t see this wider range. Hoping that the "A Monster Calls" Greenaway/Carnegie win is an indication that illustration of all sorts & styles is back in fashion.

Not sure I dare look in that Mother & Daughter book though.

David Thorpe said...

You're right. I've been a big fan of Bryan Talbot for years, since we used to hang out in the 80s. I love his Luther Arkwright series and check out Alice in Sunderland, it's awesome.