"The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because it’s only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think, the way they see themselves, the way they see the world — you can change the way people live their lives. That’s the only lasting thing you can create."
Ten Books That Have Stayed With Me (Plus Five For Good Measure), listed from top to bottom but otherwise in no particular order:
The Hero From Otherwhere by Jay Williams
Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson (as a stand-in for EVERYTHING MOOMIN, and Tove Jansson.)
Against Nature by J-K Huysmans (this is the first edition I found and read, translated by Robert Baldick. Since then I’ve read all of the English translations.)
Right Ho, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse (as a stand-in for a big pile of his stuff)
Lafcadio’s Adventures by Andre Gide (still not entirely sure why this had stayed in my head so long… cover by Edward Gorey)
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (this is the early Ballantine edition with the infamous Remington lion on the cover. Tolkien was not amused. I can just hear him saying, “THIS AIN’T F——ING NARNIA, WOMAN!!!” I’ve read the book or listened to the abridged Nicol Williamson recording probably dozens of times over the years.)
Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake (as a stand-in for the full series)
Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo
Grendel by John Gardner
The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren (could just as easily have been Mio, My Son. I remember these stories as being powerful when I was 11 or 12. There’s a mythic, but also very personal quality to the stories that I could really somehow relate to at that age.)
The House With A Clock In Its Walls by John Bellairs (and so many of his others. I am so close to having all the hard covers with the Edward Gorey art!!! ‘course, all my hard cover copies are ex-library…)
The Truth About Dragons by Hazard Adams (in the same general area of interest as Troll: A Love Story. For that matter, Grendel! Probably more so Grendel.)
Jurgen by James Branch Cabell (a recent addition here! this edition illustrated by Frank C Pape.)
The Bee-Man of Orn by Frank Stockton, illustrated by Maurice Sendak (the oldest on this, my list, by far!)
…and finally, Dwarf Long Nose by Wilhelm Hauff, also illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
Missing is Tomi Ungerer, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Redwall, Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales, more recent additions such as the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, The Circle of Light series by Niel Hancock, Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, Neil Gaiman should probably be in here for The Sandman… I’m forgetting lots of other books and authors, no doubt. The guy popping his head up in the background is Aubrey Beardsley. OH YEAH! Recent read, but worthy of adding to the list: Travel Lightby Naomi Mitchison.
The map above the books is Central London circa 1958.
A dark fairy tale about surviving the human experience
Aurora’s having a tea party with Hector, the prince she’s been dreaming about, when a sudden deluge forces them to take shelter elsewhere. They emerge from the skull of a dead girl into the woods at night, and find themselves amongst a crowd of tiny people, all of whom are milling about. Aurora quickly takes charge of the situation, and at first things seem to be going well for most of her friends. Despite a few injuries and deaths and a lot of hunger, they forage successfully, and befriend a mouse that lives in the neighborhood. But as time goes by, more and more of the little people begin to lose hope, turning against one another in brutal ways.
Beautiful Darkness is a harrowing look at the human psyche and the darkness that hides behind the routine politeness and meaningless kindness of civilized society. The sweet faces and bright leaves of Kerascoet’s joyful watercolors only serve to highlight the evil which dwells beneath, as characters allow their pettiness, greed, and jealousy to take over. Beautiful Darkness presents a bleak allegory on the human condition; Kerascoet and Vehlman’s work is a searing condemnation of our vast capacity for evil writ tiny.
Now available in English from Drawn & Quarterly | pdf preview
"No one, I take it, can afford to do without books unless he be quite sure that his own day and personality are the best imaginable; and for this class of persons the most crying need is not, of course, seclusion in a library, but in a sanatorium."