Saturday, March 1, 2008

This Week in Reading March 2 - 8

The late but extremely popular Dr. Seuss, literary icons Tom Wolfe, Frank Norris, and Nobel Prizewinner Gabriel Garcia-Marquez were born in this week. All have certainly had respectable sales, but from now through the rest of the year, upcoming weeks will be filled with notables but few bestselling authors. You could make a case for the continued popularity of humorist Sholem Aleichem, referred to as "the Yiddish Mark Twain", and Ring Lardner whose humorous stories of innocent street types in bygone New York pleased magazine readers. Unlike Dr. Seuss, Aleichem and Lardner were known more for a specific audience, than broad commercial interest.

In addition to Dr. Seuss, the week also brings us three more illustrators of note in the cartoon spectrum. Howard Pyle drew and wrote adventures for young audiences, particulary his 1883 classic The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, which is still in print. It was a "Hollywoodized" version of a legend, made easier for mass audiences to swallow, before there even was a Hollywood. It's been said that Van Gogh was a fan. Will Eisner drew and wrote comic books and small magazines from the 1930s to the 1970s. Then he created a novel length story told through pictures--a format we now commonly refer to as a graphic novel. Ronald Searle, an English illustrator with a delightfully twisted sense of humor, gave us St. Trinian's School for Girls as well as many cartoon cats.

This week's question: Which famous playwright and illustrator worked closely as an assistant to Will Eisner during his comic book years?

Answer to last week's question: In his 1957 National Book Award speech, poet Richard Wilbur spoke of the writing of poetry as a solitary endeavor, "an unsocial way of manufacturing a thoroughly social product." He also said, "Yet of course he is pleased when recognition comes; for what better proof is there that for some people poetry is still a useful and necessary thing — like a shoe."

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