Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall wins the 2009 Man Booker Prize

As of just a few minutes ago, Wolf Hall has won the 2009 Man Booker Prize! Wolf Hall is a massive book and absolutely deserves the win more than any of the others I've read. It's the War and Peace of the Tudor Dynasty and one of the finest historical British epics I've ever encountered.

I'm curious to see how this book is received once Mantel receives her surge of new readers. This is not a book to just pick up and breeze through! It is a commitment; this book will fill up your reading schedule for at least a month. It'll be absolutely worth it if you've been craving a lengthy read, but if you've got a stack of books in your to-read pile you better just slide this one to the bottom.

Wolf Hall comes out next week to US audiences. Here are both of the covers, US on the left and UK on the right-- I think the UK edition is far superior, what do you think?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz (Sunday Press)

Back in 1904, L. Frank Baum created an Oz comic strip to promote his second book, The Marvelous Land of Oz. He teamed up with the illustrator Walt McDougal to create "Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz", a strip that ran in newspapers for just under a year. Simultaneously, W.W. Denslow (the illustrator of Baum's first Oz book) created a similar strip called "The Scarecrow and the Tin Man", that ran at the same tame as "Queer Visitors". Both of these comics have been reprinted in a stunning new edition by the impeccable Sunday Press.
Sunday Press makes no compromises in terms of quality for their books--these are thick colorful pages, bound in cloth between printed boards and lavish endpapers. And, let's not forget the size of these! In an attempt to recreate the long-lost experience of reading these comics in the early 1900s, Sunday Press prints their books in the same size as the original newsprint pages on which these comics were first published. Queer Visitors is a massive 16 x 18 inches (which is actually just a bit smaller than their two Little Nemo editions). They've made their books a completely immersive experience and they are worth every penny.

So, let's talk about the actual comic--it's completely fascinating in form. "Queer Visitors" was the first comic strip ever to be based on a literary work and Baum and McDougal have managed to combine the two mediums in a very curious way. Each strip features a very dense block of text that sketches out the latest adventures of our Oz friends. And it's not just comic-style captions... this is a LOT of text, I'd say equal to 1-2 full pages of one of Baum's novels. The comic portion of the strip retells the chapter in roughly 8 frames, repeating a lot of the featured text. Similar to Winsor McCay's Little Nemo, the "plot" of each strip follows a delightfully simple formula--the visitors from Oz find themselves in a strange place, and as they try to deduce their location, madcap hilarity ensues. By the end of the strip, one of the visitors, the "Wogglebug" (I know, it even hurts to type that name, let alone say it out loud), figures out where the gang's landed and it's up to us to figure it out as well. Readers would write in their guesses and a winner would be selected each week.

You can find the Sunday Press website right here. They have an online store, but their books are also distributed to places like Amazon and The Strand. Keep in mind that although not officially limited, these guys only print so many copies of their books and they won't be around forever.