• Posted on July 26, 2010


The thing about Thing-Thing is that hesitation is not always the best policy, which contradicts everything I said in my previous blog about mindless accumulation. I first identified Thing-Thing as a jewel worthy of plucking about a year ago. The title, in particular, appealed to me, as did the art, but for some reason, I hesitated. Thing-Thing was a one of one in the bookstore, and it stayed that way for six months, until the day it disappeared from the shelf. The day, of course, when I finally realized it was time to bring Thing-Thing home. Presumably, the book had been sent back to the publisher, but maybe someone less diffident than me had picked it up. I hope so. Books that are returned to the publisher eventually get sent back on giant lots with other ‘remainder’ stock, only this time, the sad history of their early rejection is slashed across their bottoms with a big black marker. I was able to retrieve the book from the publisher before it suffered a completely undeserved fate. Thing-Thing is now my Thing-Thing, and it is most assuredly one of my favourite things.

It begins with a spoiled brat named Archibald Crimp (Dickens would approve) throwing a hissy fit, declaring that he is ‘not getting out of this bed‘ (Naomi Campbell would approve) until his parents bring him a present better than all the electronic games, racing cars, and robots littering the floor of the hotel room in the BIG CITY, where the family is staying for the little snot’s birthday. The exasperated, but pathologically indulgent parents oblige, and the father heads over to the nearest toy store. There, on a top shelf, he finds Thing-Thing, who was ‘not quite a bunny rabbit, but not quite a dog either, nor a bear, or cat for that matter.’ Dad brings the toy home and Little Lord Archibald promptly throws it out the window. End of story? No. Thing-Thing’s slow descent to the pavement is where the story actually begins.

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  • Posted on July 19, 2010

On the Pleasures and Perils of Accumulation

Guess Who's Coming for Dinner?

Sometimes it’s just too much. I fall for a pretty face in a bookstore, take the book home, and then think, ‘why did I buy this?’ After many years working in an independent bookstore, and in the years beyond, I’ve accumulated many such indulgences. It’s bibliophelia in combination with a bit of shopaholism and a soupçon of misplaced affection. Every so often I feel compelled to bring a book home, even when I know it’s not true love. I wish to support bookstores, authors, illustrators, and in particular, the continued publication of high quality (printed) picture books, but funds and especially space are limited. If the thrill starts to wane a day or two after I’ve purchased a book, or worse, as I’m walking out of the store, it’s a sign that something other than affection was driving my decision. I try to buy only what I love, but sometimes I mistake admiration for love, and even that can be complicated by other factors which inevitably lead to misunderstandings, and an accumulation of unwanted books on my shelves. I suppose this is true of any sort of over-consumption of mood-altering substances, even those that are printed and bound.

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  • Posted on July 10, 2010

Splendour in the Grass

The Garden is a miraculous place, and anything can happen on a beautiful moonlit night.

Yes. If summoned by the Brave Good Bugs, Leaf Men might swoop down from the trees, shoot a spider queen through the heart with an arrow made of thistle, save the life of an old lady and tend the garden. It could happen.

More importantly, you wish it could happen.

Most folks have a mental list of creative go-to’s: actors, writers, painters, chocolate manufacturers, etc., they will turn to over and over again for inspiration, stimulation, and pleasure. My list includes illustrators, and William Joyce has long been a charter member of this small group of artists who wander through the visual reference library in my brain, hanging and re-hanging paintings, tweeking the database, adding something new to the permanent collection every now and then.

The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs is not new, but it’s quintessential Joyce: whimsical in the truest sense of the word, strange in any sense of the word, staggeringly gorgeous, narrative, and reverential. Joyce somehow manages to make his books feel cinematic, like old-timey movies, in particular screwball comedies and Errol Flynn adventures, with just a touch of sentimentality. This is especially true of A Day with Wilbur Robinson, another great Joyce picture book, but it is also present in The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. The only requirement is a comfortable chair and a big bowl of buttered popcorn.

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