Illustrations in Novels

When kids graduate from picture books to eventually read grown-up fiction, they don’t always have to give up visual images. As we all know, some adult novels include illustrations.

I thought about this while currently reading Czech author Jaroslav Hasek’s The Good Soldier Svejk, which has drawings every few pages that add to the satiric feel of that hilarious antiwar novel. Josef Lada’s illustrations seem as simple as Svejk himself, but both have more depth than immediately meets the eye.

British writer George Monbiot said of The Good Soldier Svejk: “Perhaps the funniest novel ever written, and a brilliant study in how to get one up on the authorities while seeming to cooperate. Svejk appears to be the most loyal soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army, yet all his energies are dedicated to trying to desert.”

Among the novels most associated with pictures are those written by Lewis Carroll (whose Alice books were illustrated by John Tenniel) and Charles Dickens (whose work was illustrated by “Phiz,” George Cruikshank, and others during the author’s lifetime). Masterful art.

Also, the illustrators of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote over the centuries have fixed a memorable image in our minds of that ultra-thin, tilt-at-windmills title character.

Some novelists, such as Kurt Vonnegut, have illustrated their own books. And, in the poetry area, William Blake created astoundingly great illustrations to go along with his verse.

Speaking of artists with the first name William, my friend Kathy Eliscu’s great, quirky, seriocomic novel Not Even Dark Chocolate Can Fix This Mess includes illustrations by William D. Eldridge.

Then there are novels with photos, such as the evocative 19th-century New York City shots in Jack Finney’s time-travel tour de force Time and Again.

There’s also the “Great Illustrated Classics” series — which has included novels such as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, to name a few.

Young-adult (YA) novels of course tend to have more images than adult books. But even some grown-up novels that don’t include illustrations within their chapters might have little sketches at the start of chapters — as is the case with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Then there are drawing-heavy graphic novels (which have been described as large, literary comic books), but that’s a whole other story.

The positives of images in novels? We get to admire the skill of accomplished artists, their drawings help break up hundreds of pages of text, we find out what characters look like, and more.

Negatives? Many readers would rather imagine what characters and scenes look like than be shown. (Some of those readers might try to avoid screen adaptations of fictional works for the same reason.) Of course, many novels without inside illustrations do picture the protagonists on the cover.

What are some of your favorite novels you’ve read in illustrated editions? The pros and cons of pictures accompanying fictional prose?

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece, about overdevelopment, is here.

124 thoughts on “Illustrations in Novels

  1. I love illustrated novels! Tove Jansson has made some of my favourite illustrations, including wonderful illustrations for Alice in Wonderland. Other illustrated children books I like that ought to be read also by adults are Brothers Lionheart (by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Ilon Wikland) and the chronicles of Narnia (by C. S. Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes). My favourite illustrated novel (among the ones I own) is however Gösta Berling’s saga (by Selma Lagerlöf, illustrated by Georg Pauli), mostly because I stumbled on a beautiful edition from 1903 which might be the most beautiful book I own (not very valuable but I love it!). On the more expensive side I also like Folio Societys illustrated editions which do enhance the reading expereience.

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    • Thank you very much for your wide-ranging comment, ireadthatinabook! I appreciate your naming several great illustrated works — including the writers and artists who created them. And that 1903 novel sounds amazing!

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  2. My favorite illustrated works are Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings- specifically with the artwork of Alan Lee. Though various additions may include work by other artists.

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    • Thank you, Regan! I just looked online at Alan Lee’s Tolkien book illustrations, and they’re absolutely amazing! (“The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” editions I’ve read — several times 🙂 — didn’t have those drawings.)

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  4. Re-posting this on the correct blog post, I hope!

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned Mervyn Peake yet, have they? He was one of the most unique author/illustrators of the 20th century. He had illustrated editions of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ as well as many others as well as writing poems and stories. He is best known for his Gormenghast novels: Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Titus Alone. The first book came out in 1946, almost 10 years before Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ (although Tolkien had been working on the trilogy for over 20 years at the time it was published in the mid-50’s). I am a little over half way through ‘Titus Groan’ but am taking a short detour to re-read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ as I’ve started watching the Hulu mini-series of it. I will definitely get back to ‘Titus’. It is similar to Dickens not only in names such as Steerpike (a combination of Heathcliff, Richard III and Uriah Heep) as well as Dr. Prunesquallor, Lord Sepulgrave (the lord of Gormenghast), his daughter Fuschia, etc. It’s a colorful cast of characters with bizarre eccentricities. The only thing that really qualifies it as fantasy is that Gormenghast Castle is on a huge mountain and is itself vast, more like a city than simply a large estate. It wouls take major expense (and CGI) at this point to visualize it on film although BBC attempted it in 2000 on a typical BBC budget (meager). Anyway, Peake provided illustrations throughout the three books that have a unique, slightly grotesque effect that certainly helps establish the mood. Although he wrote other prose works of his own as well as illustrating several books (I think he also did at least one Dickens novel), the Gormenghast books are his biggest claim to fame. I first heard of them in the late 60’s after Ballentine books reissued the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy and that took off and, like a chain reaction, all these other fantasy series were being republished, many of them dating as far back as Tolkien and earlier. Anyway, Peake’s books were also issued by Ballentine as a trilogy, with covers that were similar to the ones they used for ‘LOTR’. I had heard for years people say that it was slow-paced and turgid and I might have found it that way myself when I was 14, the age I first read ‘Lord of the Rings’. However, in the wake of decades in which I’ve read Joyce, Faulkner, Proust, Henry James, Joseph Conrad and many other difficult authors, Peake is pretty easy going. I recommend it for something a bit different. Also, if you’re curious, be sure to check out a version that includes some of Peake’s original illustrations.

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      • To my recollection, no one has mentioned Mervyn Peake yet!

        He sounds like one of those “double-threat,” multi-talented people who can both write and draw superbly.

        I’ve never read the three Gormenghast novels; I just put them on my list after your superb description of their content (including those character names!), their publishing history, etc.

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    • I stumbled on the first of Peake’s trilogy, intrigued, frankly by its Peake-made cover art maybe 20 years ago, and read the first portion with pleasure and wonder– but when the solitary traveler left the water and met up with others, I fell out of interest– probably my fault, but I never went back, and later, did not find myself sufficiently enthralled by the teevee version to keep watching. I have looked over Peake’s work as an illustrator, and I think it’s first-rate, and original.

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  5. There are a good many publishing projects that over the years have made folks scratch their head in wonder, but one such I never could have anticipated is the 1995 edition of Herman Melville’s “Pierre”(1852), the novel he wrote after “Moby Dick”– unsurprisingly, a failure after a failure, given its testy and lengthy railings against critics and publishers. Worse, some of these writerly outbursts seemed to be jammed into places in Pierre’s storyline where they had no natural fit. There are lovely passages, however, at the very least, in “Pierre”. In fact, in my experience, Melville’s writings about the guitar are the best prose on the topic anywhere.

    “But in the twentieth century, Pierre found its two greatest champions — Melville scholar Herschel Parker and the great Maurice Sendak, who considered it Melville’s greatest novel and who had previously illustrated another literary titan. So when Parker approached the beloved artist about the Kraken edition, Sendak was thrilled — doubly so because the book’s unabashed blend of sensuality, nightmarishness, and ambiguity mirrored his own aesthetic and paralleled the sensibility of his greatest lifelong influence, William Blake.”

    The quote above is excerpted from the website linked here, where a few other art and literature collaborations are also listed: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/08/21/maurice-sendak-pierre-herman-melville/

    Parker edited out the additions Melville made concerning critics and the book business from his original manuscript, and Sendak provided colored illustrations that are unlike anything he had ever done. But this edition of “Pierre” too is now rare, and sought after– just my luck, I found it in a thrift store for a dollar!

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    • Wow, that is amazing! I had no idea this existed. Such clearly delineated butts and penises! I didn’t visualize anything like this when I read the novel over 30 years ago but I won’t be able to get them out of my mind whenever I re-read it.

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    • Wow, jhNY! Like bobess48, I no idea this “Pierre” edition existed! That art — Sendak-like yet not Sendak-like — is incredibly striking and “candid.” Can’t believe you got that rare, unusual edition for just a buck!

      I’m a big fan of “Pierre” — my favorite Herman Melville novel after “Moby-Dick.” I think it’s riveting despite, or perhaps because of, it being kind of perverse (skirting with incest and all that) and despite its over-the-top section fuming against critics (but one can understand Melville’s frustration after so many reviewers and other reader reacted negatively to his “M-D” masterwork).

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      • Leafing through the book, I just happened to happen on a glittering and fabulous bit of guitar-writing, and searched in the general area for more, which I found. Otherwise, I have not read “Pierre” yet (got the book maybe 18 months ago), but when I do, it’s this edition I will read.

        Had everybody disliked the Mona Lisa and discouraged Leonardo as thoroughly as Melville was discouraged by his contemporaries in letters, he, and not Duchamp, might have been the first to add a mustache to the portrait in spite. At least that’s what comes to mind re “Pierre”‘s passages that Parker edited away.

        But if I live with my wits intact long enough, I would also like one day to read “Pierre” with the rants left in.

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        • I read the “unabridged” edition, and was (mostly) enthralled. Plus it’s interesting to see the occasional Melville work (including some short stories) not set mostly on the sea. “Pierre” is a totally landlocked tale.

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      • Read ‘The Confidence-Man’. It’s not quite as landlocked as ‘Pierre’ but it does mostly occur on a much smaller body of water than either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean i.e. the Mississippi River. The setting is not the only aspect about it that brings Mark Twain to mind. The ‘Confidence-Man’ himself is kind of a ‘Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg’ semi-demonic outsider figure as I recall. Of course, ‘Confidence-Man’ was published in 1857, a full 10 years or so before Mark Twain began his career as a writer. Of course, I read both it and ‘Pierre’ in 1982-83 so my memory of both is a bit hazy.

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  6. As I do weekly or worse, I find old books to buy on Broadway, and it’s a lot like beach-combing. You never know what’s washed up overnight.

    My latest acquisition is “John Henry” by Roark Bradford, a black writer; it was published in 1931 by Harper and Brothers. There are woodcuts throughout, depicting various incidents and scenes out of black rural life and song, wonderfully done, if somewhat dated, by JJ Lankes, himself a white man from Buffalo NY who moved to Virginia after marriage. Here’s a sample:
    http://segui-riveted.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-mighty-john-henry.html

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  7. “Also, the illustrators of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote over the centuries have fixed a memorable image in our minds of that ultra-thin, tilt-at-windmills title character.”– D. Astor

    Among the most influential of all is French 19th century illustrator Gustave Dore, whose work on “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”, “The Divine Comedy” and the Bible were very popular in their day. Dore was even commissioned to do illustrations of contemporary London life after the success of an exhibition there, a project on which he worked for three years.

    But his first great success was depicting Don Quixote for a French edition of Cervantes’ novel.

    from wikipedia:
    “In the 1860s he illustrated a French edition of Cervantes’s “Don Quixote”, and his depictions of the knight and his squire, Sancho Panza, have become so famous that they have influenced subsequent readers, artists, and stage and film directors’ ideas of the physical “look” of the two characters.”

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      • Hi, guys! I was happy to see that the Brandywine River Museum just down the road from me has the following: “In 1911, with the proceeds from his illustrations for Treasure Island, the artist N.C. Wyeth purchased 18 acres of land near the village of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Possessed, he described it as the most glorious sight in the township. Wyeth built his home and studio on a hill overlooking the valley—setting down roots which have nourished a family of extraordinary creativity for more than a century.” I plan to go the museum someday soon, and the Wyeth works there are highly prized by those who live in the area.

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  8. Three Self-Illustrating Writers:

    1) ETA Hoffmann (The Nutcracker, The Sandman, etc.) made several drawings to accompany his texts, though not always for purposes of publication. “The Best Tales of Hoffmann” (Dover Press, edited by EF Bleier) features a little pen and ink map of Berlin he made for the amusement of friends, showing many of the locations for stories he set there. Its cover is a caricature of “the maniac Kreisler”, also drawn by Hoffmann.

    2)The Tenniel illustrations are so widely known and loved today that relatively few know Lewis Carroll made his own pictures, some of which are arresting and very imaginative, for the original recipient of his Alice book, Alice Liddell.

    http://www.openculture.com/2014/01/original-alice-in-wonderland-manuscript.html

    3)Bruno Schulz, to my eye, is the runaway talent in the visual arts who has been kind enough to grace us with fabulous stories also. All right, that’s a bit of oversell, but only because his stories are world-class quality literature, while his illustrations are merely great. Before his murder by an SS officer, Schulz, a Polish Jew, published two short story collections, the second being “Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass”. The illustrations linked below derive mostly from his first collection “The Street of Crocodiles” (also published under the title “Cinnamon Shops”.)

    https://www.google.com/search?biw=1366&bih=659&tbm=isch&q=bruno+schulz+street+of+crocodiles&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjbhKvzpKrVAhUEOj4KHUUEBYAQhyYIKg

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    • Wow, jhNY! Those Carroll drawings, and especially those Schulz drawings, are knockouts! Thanks for the links and the very informative comment. You really widened the discussion of this topic.

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  9. I loved pouring through books as a child just to look at the pictures. As an adult, I still love the pictures and treasure books as much for the illustrations as for the text. I adore the books of Sister Elizabeth Ruth Obbard, who illustrates them herself. Her drawings seem so simply done and that, I think, is why they work so well. Please excuse me, I’m including a link – not as spam – but just to show you what I mean.
    http://quidenhamcarmel.org.uk/product-category/crafts-books/quidenham-book-service/page/2/

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    • Thank you for your excellent comment, ellem63!

      It’s great when book illustrations stand the test of time — whether that be time in general or our personal time growing from a kid to an adult. I’ve also enjoyed looking at the images in books I read as a child (with that looking often occurring when my daughters read books I once read).

      Thanks, also, for the link! I like those illustrations a LOT. Simply done, as you say, but very skillful.

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  10. It’s a fudge, in that the work is rightly classified as a graphic novel, but Art Speigelman’s Maus, told in comic book fashion (first in installments in Raw Magazine), is a most effective and memorable employment of illustration to depict and enhance his father’s memories of the Holocaust– there are few memoirs of the period that have the power of Spiegelman’s innovative book– though the main character is a mouse, surrounded by hostile pigs and murderous cats.

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    • Thank you, jhNY. Great mention! I’ve read “Maus,” and it IS a powerful/brilliant graphic novel that helped make the GN genre a major thing. I also heard the rather neurotic Art Speigelman speak a couple times; his talks were not as impressive as his writing/drawing, and he smoked way too much at the podium, but an interesting guy nonetheless.

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      • Graphic novels go back a ways, though “Maus” was certainly foundational to the genre/ sales category it has become. Somewhere in my overstuffed closet, I’ve got one, printed in Germany in the 1920’s– a sad tale of privation and despair, for adult readers– without a word of text. As I recall it, the book is over 100 pages long.

        (I used to be an interesting guy who smoked way too much myself– quit now 30+ years. In college, I was good for as many as 3 packs per day.)

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        • Thanks, jhNY! Didn’t realize what can be called “graphic novels” goes back many a year before “Maus.”

          As for Art Speigelman smoking, I understand the addiction — my father was a four-pack-a-day guy. What struck me was that Speigelman couldn’t stop for the half hour or so he was at the podium. Same thing with Tom Clancy (“The Hunt for Red October”) when he spoke at a 1990s cartoonists convention I attended.

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  11. In college, I happened to read a 1940ish reissue of Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy, his attempt at the great American novel, and, though not read often as it once was, it’s a damn good try at the prize.

    Accompanying that reissue were illustrations by Reginald Marsh, which seemed to fit seamlessly with the prose, and are, in themselves, wonderfully insightful peeks into 20th century urban life, most especially of the NYC variety.

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    • I’ve been meaning to read Dos Passos’ trilogy since forever, but somehow never have. It certainly does seem like a very ambitious work, and the great illustrations in the reissue you mentioned is a nice bonus.

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  12. My favorite childhood book ” A Child’s Garden of Verses” with poems by Robert Louis Stephenson has beautiful watercolor drawings by Tasha Tudor. I just gave book to my sweet little niece to add to her collection.

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    • That sounds like a wonderful book, Michele, and it’s great that you gave it as a gift to your niece! I’m sure she’ll treasure it.

      I’ve read several of Robert Louis Stevenson’s YA and adult novels, but unfortunately never the very nicely titled “A Child’s Garden of Verses.”

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    • Michele, my sister is a huge fan of Tasha Tudor, and she and her best friend would sometimes visit where she lived and “stalk” her. Not really of course, but she thought highly of her, and she’s taken up going to water coloring classes and is doing quite well. My mom would be thrilled to know that I’ve started playing piano again, my one sister doing water colors and all of her six kids love reading.

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  13. In its usual f*d up manner, the site won’t post the comment. Trying again.

    I immediately jumped to children’s stories, when reading your article, Dave. Wonder why? Shows where I am in this life. Ha. The Velveteen Rabbit, and Good Night Moon come to mind. So does a little known book by Paramahansa Yogananda, illustrated by Author Natalie Hale (an absolutely wonderful human being) – Two Frogs in Trouble. I cannot recall it well, unfortunately, but one of my favorite books of all time is Watership Down. I’m not recalling much in the way of images, but the images the writer created in my mind as I read it, were certainly real and wonderful. Thanks, Dave.

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    • Thank you, hopewfaith, for your excellent comment! Very sorry this site gave you some trouble; glad another attempt at posting worked. I had some problems myself yesterday for a while — one of my comments posted as “Anonymous,” I wasn’t able to “like” anything, and I kept getting logged out. I blame Trump… 🙂

      Children’s books are indeed a bonanza of wonderful art, and give those talented illustrators a place for their work and the potential for some decent money. You mentioned some absolutely classics, and the lesser-known “Two Frogs in Trouble” also sounds great!

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  14. I was about to comment about ‘Huck Finn’ before I saw JHNY’s comment. I have ‘The Annotated Huckleberry Finn’ which appears to include replications of the illustrations from the first American edition.

    Regarding books for which illustration is essential, I want to mention ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’ by Brian Selznick. It is a fantastic YA novel with illustrations throughout by Selznick himself, so the illustrations are as much a way to tell the story as the words themselves. As it deals with the factual pioneer of cinema, George Melies, the illustrations are particularly pertinent. It was unsurprising that Martin Scorsese chose to make his first (and only, so far) foray into YA films with his adaptation of it, ‘Hugo’, because the illustrations pretty much serve as storyboards for the film. Half the work was done for him.

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    • Thank you, Brian! “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was well worth mentioning again.

      And “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” DOES sound great — with the illustrations so integral to the book. George Melies and his work are fascinating subjects. Also, nice that Martin Scorsese got a bit of a work break on that movie. 🙂

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      • Martin Scorsese got a break of ‘Hugo’ only in the sense that it was a departure from his organized crime/disorganized violence films. It was his first (and only so far) film to be shot in 3-D and I recall him saying how he couldn’t get used to putting on special lenses to see how his takes looked in 3-D (he’s an old school filmmaker in that sense). However, it was fantastic in 3-D, the only one I’ve seen that didn’t leave me with a headache or feeling carsick. I generally don’t get along with 3-D films. It’s also the only one of his films you could show to kids.

        Although ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’, while over 500 pages, almost half of those are illustrated, so it’s a pretty fast read. Also, Brian Selznick has a family movie connection. David Selznick, who produced ‘Gone With the Wind’ and many other films of that era, is the cousin of Brian’s grandfather.

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        • Thanks for the follow-up comment, Brian! I was kind of joking about the hardworking Scorsese’s partial work break, but point taken. 🙂

          “Hugo” (which I haven’t seen) does sound like a departure from the many crime-themed, violence-laden movies Scorsese has made. I guess, to a lesser extent, films such as his “The Age of Innocence” and “The Last Waltz” were departures as well.

          Interesting Selznick family connection there!

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  15. Once in high school than another time in college I wrote essays arguing that comic books are good for literacy. Humans crave the image as representation of a concept/ theme/ event! We have been tied to pictures for all of recorded history. Aren’t letters supposed to be a representation of a sound- which builds to a mental picture!? My seminary church history professor learned Italian from reading Marvel comics, and his son gained an interest in reading from comic books. If you look at great Eastern works, they are very illustrated and beautiful. It simply astounds me that in the West we look down on illustrations and literature.
    Thanks for this post!

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    • Thank you very much for the excellent comment, deeplygrateful!

      Comic books (and comic strips) are indeed great for literacy — whether they’re looked at by beginning readers, teens, or adults. And many cartoons have serious, eloquent messages amid the (possible) humor. (I used to cover cartooning for a magazine, as well as do freelance cartoons.)

      Many in the U.S. do look down on illustrations, and are not that interested in literature, and it’s a shame.

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        • I think I would agree with you there. “Calvin and Hobbes” was wonderfully written AND spectacularly drawn. And funny, of course. I was lucky to meet “C&H” cartoonist Bill Watterson a couple of times before he became more reclusive.

          Actually, come to think of it, “Peanuts” would be a strong candidate, too.

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      • I remember having an English teacher who said once that she didn’t care what we read, even comic books, but just read somethin! I still have a fascination with certain comics, most notably Archie & Friends, Pogo, Peanuts, and best of all, Calvin & Hobbes. Some of these, especially the last one can be more profound than any books I’ve ever read!

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        • You had a wise English teacher, Kat Lib! Reading anything is better than reading nothing (though I might make an exception for Trump’s Twitter feed 🙂 ).

          “Pogo,” “Peanuts,” and “Calvin and Hobbes” were all very literate comic strips, and “Archie” — while usually not profound in any way — was a lot of fun to read.

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          • I read last year sometime or other that there is an Archie comic that had the characters grow somewhat through the years — they had books imagining what it would be like if Archie married Betty or Veronica, they added a gay character, who was running for office of some sort, and at a political rally someone decided to take a shot at the gay character and Archie dove in front of him and was hit by the bullet instead and died. I’m not sure I want to read those, and I’d prefer Archie and the gang to be forever in high school, along with some of them as being little kids.

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            • I’ve vaguely heard about the “Archie” comics taking on more substantive issues, but I guess I stopped reading “Archie” long before that happened. It’s not easy to transform a “light” comic property into something heavier; some properties are just meant to be entertaining. And I say that as someone who likes cartoons (such as “Doonesbury”) that acknowledge the real, depressing world.

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    • It’s my belief that movie storyboards and comic strips/comic books are co-developments of the same era, obviously related and each influential on the other.

      Incidentally, before the movies, Fellini drew for a comic strip.

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      • You made an astute connection there, jhNY. And I didn’t know that about Fellini!

        As we might have discussed before, Milt Caniff (the “Terry and the Pirates” and “Steve Canyon” creator who I had the pleasure of meeting many times between 1983 and 1988) was very cinematic with his comic-strip art. Panoramic shots, close-ups, etc., etc. Not a coincidence that he did some acting in his younger years.

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  16. Howdy, Dave!

    — What are some of your favorite novels you’ve read in illustrated editions? —

    I especially like the maps employed to illustrate a number of my favorite adventure novels, such as Richard Adams’ “Watership Down,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy (“The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King”).

    — The pros and cons of pictures accompanying fictional prose? —

    In the case of maps, the best thing is that they give a reader a clue about where a writer is coming from (and going to), while the worst thing is that they can expose an author with either little or no sense of direction.

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

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    • Maps! Glad you mentioned them, J.J.! They definitely enhance some novels — visually and (as you note) informationally. (I’m sure Frodo, Sam, and Gollum didn’t peer at their smartphones to find Mount Doom…)

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      • — I’m sure Frodo, Sam, and Gollum didn’t peer at their smartphones to find Mount Doom… —

        According to “The Official Apple Apocrypha,” the One Ring used first by Bilbo and then by Frodo to provide directions during their respective quests was originally supposed to have been called the iRing, but Steve Jobs and J.R.R. Tolkien apparently could not reach agreement on the financial package, including the distribution of any and all revenue derived from product placements in derivative media such as comic books, films and television productions.

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        • Hilarious! 🙂 🙂

          I think there was also a dispute about the app for biting off a ring finger.

          And every time the characters used their smartphones to try to get someplace on Middle-earth, they ended up in New Zealand…

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          • — I think there was also a dispute about the app for biting off a ring finger. —

            I believe it would have been OK by Gollum, but I suspect both Bilbo and Frodo would have found it distasteful.

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              • J.J. and Dave, I much enjoyed your quite humorous exchange on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. At some point in the 2000’s I bought a very beautiful illustrated version of the entire trilogy, boxed together, for more money than I ever spent for any novel/s. I know I’ve also mentioned here that I’ve bought leather-bound editions of about 18 B&N classics, which I treat as works of art. Anyway, as beautiful as they were, I only made it through The Fellowship of the Ring. I also remember not being all that fond of the movie trilogy, but I dutifully bought all of them, but only watched them once. I know some might call this heresy, but I much preferred Harry Potter.

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                • Thank you, Kat Lib! I enjoyed both “The Lord of the Rings” and the “Harry Potter” books, but, like you, I like “HP” better. Various reasons for that — including J.K. Rowling’s work being funnier than J.R.R. Tolkien’s sometimes-humorous epic, and, even more importantly, “HP” having many more substantial female characters, good and evil.

                  But, again, I also do like “The Lord of the Rings,” and it definitely lends itself to having magnificent illustrations accompany it.

                  Like

                • Howdy, Kat Lib!

                  — I much enjoyed your quite humorous exchange on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. . . . I know some might call this heresy, but I much preferred Harry Potter. —

                  Heratics are fine by me, even though I personally am more of a Zeusatic. Meanwhile, I appear to be one of the three Americans who has not yet read Word One of J.K. Rowling’s magnum opus, so the author could well score another seven sales between now and the Apocalypse. (Wait! What? Last November?)

                  J.J.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Well, J.J., I was more of an Artemistic myself, though I did have a problem with the whole hunting thing. Also, my brother and his wife owned for a short time a bookstore called Artemis Eye on Cape Ann. I do know more people who didn’t read H.P. than those who did, though they probably didn’t read Tolkien either. What really disturbs me is that sister has at least the first 3 or 4 volumes of H.P., signed by J.K. Rowling, and she didn’t even read them, or at any rate, didn’t care for them much. But as we are always told, life isn’t fair!

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • — I was more of an Artemistic myself, though I did have a problem with the whole hunting thing. —

                      Some of my best friends are carnivores, but, in truth, Artemis ranks in the middle of my personal A-List of Olympians, a little below Aphrodite and Athena, a lot above Apollo and Ares.

                      — Also, my brother and his wife owned for a short time a bookstore called Artemis Eye on Cape Ann. —

                      Nice! The mass appeal of many of my favorite monsters of literature associated with the Bay State cannot be denied, as exemplified by the likes of Louisa May Alcott, Edward Bellamy, E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Kahlil Gibran, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Great Nat Hentoff, Jack Kerouac, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Lowell, Herman Melville, Charles Olson, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, Anne Sexton, Henry David Thoreau and John Updike.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • In the ‘Harry Potter’ versus ‘Lord of the Rings’ battle I’m a bit neutral when it comes to the books themselves. ‘Lord of the Rings’ will always hold a place in my heart due to when I first discovered it, at the young age of 14. The Harry Potter books are masterful and full of many colorful characters, both male and female. Rowling’s characterization is definitely more layered than Tolkien’s. It stands alone and is really a different animal entirely. I think the two got paired and compared and contrasted mainly because the film versions of each of them were released around the same time (at least the first three, as there are three ‘Lord of the Rings’ books and films as opposed to seven ‘Harry Potter’ books translated into eight films).

                      When it comes to the film version, however, the ‘Lord of the Rings’ wins, hands down. In some respects, it surpasses the books. It possessed an emotional gravitas that the ‘Harry Potter’ series lacked, for me at least. While being faithful to the spirit of the trilogy, it takes liberties that depart from the books, often resulting in something that works much better than it did in the books. The ‘Harry Potter’ movies, however, while very good adaptations of the novels, are almost TOO faithful, at least earlier in the series. The cute factor of the kids overpowers the ambiguities of the characters in the books. Also, I don’t think the kids that played Harry , Hermione, and Ron were particularly exceptional at all. I think at least Daniel Ratcliffe and Emma Watson have improved and evolved a bit as they’ve become adults but in general they were so overshadowed by all those great British actors surrounding them throughout the series. I’ll probably never re-watch them. However, ‘Lord of the Rings’ was a trailbllazer for epic fantasy on film and is still impressive even though newer technologies have become available in subsequent years and employed in contemporary fantasy such as ‘Game of Thrones’. However, ‘Game of Thrones’ (the TV series) would not exist if ‘Lord of the Rings’ had not paved the way first.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Howdy, jhNY!

                      — Between us, we are 2/3 of the total Americans you cite. —

                      Because appearances can be deceiving, my estimate may be mistaken, so it might be just the two of us.

                      J.J.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • That’s a great comment, bobess48! Many excellent points! I’ll respond to a couple of them. “The Lord of the Rings” films (I saw all three) were indeed powerful and not quite as faithful to the Tolkien trilogy, which can be a good thing with some cinematic adaptations. But I also think the “Harry Potter” movies (I saw all eight) were exceptional, and got less “cutesy” as each new one was released. I also think Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Emma Watson (Hermione), and Rupert Grint (Ron) grew quite a bit in their acting abilities between the first and last films. But, yes, they were overshadowed by an absolutely amazing cast of adult British actors and actresses.

                      Like

                    • Howdy, bobess48!

                      — ‘Lord of the Rings’ was a trailbllazer for epic fantasy on film and is still impressive even though newer technologies have become available —

                      I agree. Peter Jackson & Co. did such an extraordinary job in interpreting the source material that I suspect J.R.R. Tolkien is the happiest author anywhere in Tol Eressea.

                      J.J.

                      Liked by 1 person

    • Add Alistair MacLean to your list. “Bear Island” is set off a remote island near Norway and includes 2-3 maps. Very good tool because it allows the reader to follow the ship’s route across the Barents Sea.

      But I’m biased in favour of any novel that has maps because I love geography…even the décor of my guest bathroom has a world map theme.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Howdy, Ana (@geddy_lee_fan)!

        — Add Alistair MacLean to your list. “Bear Island” is set off a remote island near Norway and includes 2-3 maps. —

        Although I have not read any of Alistair MacLean’s work, I have seen either all or some of a few of the films based thereon, such as “Ice Station Zebra,” “The Guns of Navarone” and “Force 10 from Navarone”: I can imagine a map or maps enhancing each of the three foundational novels.

        Meanwhile, I am adding “Bear Island” to my Life List. (I believe I have an opening in 2025, The Good M42 Bus willing.)

        J.J.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. My favorite illustrated novel, and one of my first, has got to be “The Wind in the Willows” illustrated by Arthur Rackham. I enjoy book illustrations but must admit it is a joy to ‘picture’ the contents of a story in my mind as I often conjure up images different than the art. With or without illustration, a good novel is a good read. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said, Jack! And thanks for “The Wind in the Willows” mention!

      You’re absolutely right that a good novel doesn’t need illustrations, though they can be a bonus. Still, as you say, seeing a character or scene only in the mind’s eye is quite appealing, too. It’s interesting when what we see in our imagination differs from the art in a book.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Let me try again, as this site seems not to like what I’m posting. 🙂

    Hi Dave, what a nice column! I’ve always loved books with illustrations, and it was almost a sad day for me when I started reading books without any at all, except perhaps the cover art. I have three old books that once belonged to my eldest brother, which I only know because he printed his name neatly in each one. He had “The Wind in the Willows” illustrated by Arthur Rackham, published in 1940 by the Heritage Illustrated Bookshelf; and another one from the same publisher of “Tom Sawyer” from 1936, illustrated by Norman Rockwell. Both of these are amazing and in very good condition. I have “Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass” with illustrations by John Tenniel, published by The Heritage Press on 1941. It’s sadly not in the best of condition, most likely because it was passed down from my brother to each of my sisters and me (again, because we each wrote our names in it), so I wonder if my other two brothers didn’t read it or couldn’t be bothered to print or write their names.

    My very favorite illustrated book is “Little Women” published in 1947, as part of the Illustrated Junior Library and illustrated by Louis Jambor. I had this edition as a pre-teen, and yet it got lost along the way. Much to my surprise I found it in a used book store in Kennett Square years ago while visiting my sister, and it’s one my favorite books. It has a wonderful cover of the four sisters singing, while Marmee is playing the piano, and goes around to the back cover of Hannah getting tea ready. It looks like a watercolor, much faded, but the colored illustrations in the book are very vibrant in their colors. There are also many black and white illustrations, which are done very well by the illustrator.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kat Lib. Sorry you had some posting issues again.

      Greatly enjoyed your wide-ranging comment! I was particularly impressed with your description of that 1947 “Little Women” edition — sounds wonderful. Glad you were able to find it again!

      The other old illustrated books you mentioned also sound appealing. Norman Rockwell doing art for “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”! A very appropriate combination given Rockwell’s oft-focus on small-town life.

      Like

  19. This is truly a tough one Dave. Most of the illustrated books I recall are from my pre-teens/teens. Definitely the first book that came to mind was “Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass”. Those illustrations were so much a part of the story that I can’t even imagine having read that book without them. They have stayed etched in my mind all these years. I’m almost sure “Black Beauty” had illustrations, as well. I read both books around the age of eleven. I’ll be looking forward to the comments to see if anything triggers a memory 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean, Pat. It was also hard for me to think of a lot of illustrated fiction other than that aimed at younger readers — though I’m sure there are plenty of “grown-up books” with images.

      Yes, it’s hard to imagine the “Alice” books without Tenniel’s fantastic drawings of the protagonist, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, and others.

      I’ve never read “Black Beauty,” unfortunately.

      Thank you for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pat! Yes, there was an illustrated book of “Black Beauty,” which I remember well from when I was about that age. Unfortunately, it was another book that I lost along the way. I did however find an edition from the 1980’s, which does have some nice illustrations, but I’m not sure if they are same ones I loved so much as a kid.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I read the Jan Karon series The Mitford Years and as soon as I started it I bought it for my mother as I knew she’d love it. Mum loved the illustrations and commented on how Father Tim became better looking as the series progressed and he became interested in his neighbor Cynthia, whom he eventually married. Thank you for reminding me of this beloved novel series and the joy my mother and I shared as we read these books. The illustrations really added to their charm for both my mother and me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Really enjoyed your comment, Shallow Reflections, and its family memories.

      It’s interesting how illustrations can change as a series goes along — whether it’s the same artist drawing somewhat differently, or a different artist coming on. The latter was the case with the original editions of the seven “Harry Potter” books, I think.

      A character being drawn better-looking as the series went on…hmm. Almost like the series was anticipating what Hollywood would do with the character if a screen adaptation happened!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Hi Dave,

    You may recall that Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” is my favouritist series of all time. I first discovered it when I was around 15 or 16. More than ten years later, the last novel was FINALLY published. I will never forget picking it up from my library, on the way to my mum’s house. While catching up with my parents, it was obviously rude to read this much anticipated instalment, so instead, I did what all of us book junkies do, and I touched it, and smelt it, and looked at the pictures. There are many different publications of these books, some are illustrated, some not. But luckily for me, this particular publication of the last book had gorgeous illustrations done by Michael Whelan. Around 6-8 of them, the last of which was a fold out picture of the iconic Tower itself. I love technology, and I love my kindle, but I had such physical pleasure from picking up that book, and looking at those pictures that it will stay with me forever. Thanks so much for the reminder 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Sue! Great, vivid comment about the thrill and anticipation of getting certain novels — especially the newest installment of a compelling series.

      I think it’s time I try to read at least one book in “The Dark Tower” series. 🙂 I see from Wikipedia that “The Gunslinger” is the first one; I’ll hope my local library has it when I go tomorrow. A real bonus that some editions of the series are illustrated — with a foldout, no less, in the edition you have!

      Like

      • Hi Dave,

        If you do read “The Gunslinger”, I hope you enjoy it, though I must confess, I’ve spoken to a lot of “Dark Tower” fans, and Volume 1 is often not well-loved. For a lot of people, myself included, it doesn’t really pick up until half way through the second novel. But I’d love to know what you think of it, either good or bad.

        Is it silly that I’m actually a little apprehensive about you reading it? I’d hate to think that I’ve ruined it for you by talking it up too much…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi, Sue! When I went to the library yesterday, the first “Dark Tower” installment unfortunately wasn’t there (nor the second). They did have three of the later “DT” books. Will try again next month.

          You bring up the interesting question of whether to avoid the first book when starting a series. I tend to prefer going completely chronologically, even if the initial installment is so-so, to get oriented on the characters and story. But I did read Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series out of order, and still loved it, so…

          You’ve haven’t ruined the “DT” series by discussing it! I don’t remember you giving away any spoilers — you just stirred interest in the books. 🙂

          Like

          • Hi Dave,

            I think a series like “The Dark Tower” must be read chronologically, and I wouldn’t recommend skipping the first one. I guess all I was saying was that if you don’t like the first one, you might get a lot more out of the second one, but if you read the second one, and don’t like it, then I’m happy to accept that it’s just not for you.

            When I decided to try a Jack Reacher book, I started with the first, but I got the feeling that all the novels were complete stories on their own, and not part of a larger story arc. The movies certainly don’t seem to be in the same order

            Liked by 1 person

            • Hi Sue,

              Thanks! If I can get a hold of the first “Dark Tower” book, I’ll also give the second a try even if I have mixed feelings about the first one. 🙂

              Lee Child’s Reacher books can indeed each stand alone, but there’s a certain amount of arc to a number of them — such as a story lines sort of continuing for two or three novels. Plus there’s an underlying current of Reacher getting older; he’s in his 30s in the beginning of the series and now in his 50s.

              The two Reacher movies definitely seem to have been chosen rather randomly!

              Like

    • Hi Sue! OK, you’ve convinced me that I need to read “The Dark Tower”! My problem of course is that I have so many books in my queue that I feel paralyzed by it sometimes. I got one of my free gift cards from Barnes & Noble yesterday, but of course I had to spend it on songbooks that I can play on my piano. I’ve been enjoying it tremendously, but I now have to deal with hands that are slightly arthritic, so I can’t play long, but hopefully that will come back with time!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Two possible converts in one week! I should be charging Mr King for my services! Though you may not like it, in which case, he probably owes me nothing. I know exactly what you mean about having too many books to read. But if I think about it too much, I can often lose the enjoyment of any reading, so I try not to think about it, and just take it one page at a time. Those pages are currently in the middle of Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd” which I’m really enjoying.

        I’m so glad to hear that you bought a piano! I bought myself a cheap keyboard many years ago, and learned the first few bars of the obligatory “Fur Elise”, but that was as far as it went. Of course, a keyboard and piano are entirely different instruments. I wish I could hear you play. I’m sure it’s beautiful (and if not now, then soon). Completely understand that you HAD to buy piano books with your gift cards. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  22. The Yearling had some beautiful illustrations, by N.C. Wyeth I think. I was amused by the illustrations in Breakfast of Champions. I recently read Cat’s Cradle but it didn’t have illustrations (actually I think there might have been one picture of the cat’s cradle string game.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kira!

      I read “The Yearling” within the past year, and am trying to remember if it was an edition that included illustrations. I can’t check because it was a library book I returned months ago. I loved Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ novel!

      Vonnegut’s illustrations were no great shakes drawing-wise, but they were indeed amusing. 🙂

      Like

  23. I’ve often wondered what Mark Twain (if he knew) thought of some of the illustrations published with such books of his as Huck Finn, Innocents Abroad and Joan of Arc. I think those were later additions and not what Twain planned, but I’ve been wrong before. Do you know, Dave?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Bill! Some of Twain’s novels definitely have had a number of illustrations (I can clearly picture Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer!), but I don’t know if any original editions included art or whether those images were added later, as you suspect. Perhaps even after Twain died in 1910?

      Like

      • Somewhat confusing, this question, re Huck anyways. The edition which I always took as the first has an embossed cover, with Huck in gold against a blue background– sometimes this cover design appears in green. Illustrations in that edition were made expressly for and under the eye of the author himself, and were done by a man named Kemble. I’ve certainly seen later editions with Kemble’s illustrations inside.

        The illustrations were made in batches, I think more or less in order of proposed appearance, and Twain’s notes about them, as they arrived, still exist. Twain does seem, tellingly, to be acutely sensitive to the effect they might have on his readers, and to the idea that the right ones might do a lot for the success of the book overall.

        But if I figured things out correctly, the first edition worldwide was in 1884, not 1885, and was published in Great Britain. And the cover is leather, without illustration.There also appear to be copies of a sort of American presentation edition that are likewise leatherbound, without embossing, that may predate the blue embossed cover. Don’t know if Kemble’s illustrations are inside, but I’m betting they are.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks for all that very interesting and detailed information, jhNY! I was not aware that Mark Twain sort of oversaw the illustrations in his “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” novel’s first (?) American edition. Twain was certainly very conscious of what he wanted in his books!

          Like

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