Literati Bookstore

Posted 12.18.13

Beginning in January 2013, Michael Gustafson and Hilary Lowe spent nearly three months renovating a twenty-six-hundred-square-foot storefront in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to prepare for the grand opening of Literati Bookstore. Not everything went according to plan: Unforeseen expenses and delays, a botched order of fifteen thousand bookmarks, and a near total loss of their first week's sales threatened the bookstore's success. But over a hundred members of the Ann Arbor community turned up for Literati's inaugural reading, and now, more than eight months after the store's grand opening, Gustafson and Lowe have built a successful community around their literary dream. The following images offer a behind the scenes look at the couple's journey, which contributing editor Jeremiah Chamberlin chronicles in "How to Make a Life, Maybe Even a Living: Opening an Independent Bookstore" in the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Article: 
  • 1 of 91. Basement of Literati Bookstore Pre-Renovation
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    1. Basement of Literati Bookstore Pre-Renovation

    January 2013: The basement, which accounts for half the store's floor space, covered in torn-up carpeting and debris prior to renovations. "No matter how long I listened to the couple describe their vision for this space," Jeremiah Chamberlin writes, "when I looked around all I saw was a basement."

  • 2 of 92. Top Floor of Literati Bookstore Pre-Renovation
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    2. Top Floor of Literati Bookstore Pre-Renovation

    The original wood floors of the space are torn out and replaced, an unexpected expense that delays the bookstore's opening.

  • 3 of 93. Painting the Floor
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    3. Painting the Floor

    Gustafson and Lowe paint the black-and-white checkerboard pattern on the top floor of the store by hand, stepping carefully between each square they’ve mapped using blue painter’s tape.

  • 4 of 94. The Store Makes its Debut
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    4. The Store Makes its Debut

    March 2013: The store debuts with a private party. Writers, members of the University of Michigan community, as well as local business owners and supporters, arrive for their first glimpse of the new bookstore.

  • 5 of 95. Literati's Inaugural Event
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    5. Literati's Inaugural Event

    Over a hundred people show up to hear Michigan-based poet Keith Taylor read at Literati Bookstore, the first of what the owners hope will be many future readings and events.

  • 6 of 96. Gustafson and Lowe Glow
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    6. Gustafson and Lowe Glow

    Despite the long hours, Gustafson and Lowe never stop smiling at the Literati Bookstore's debut party for members of the community.

  • 7 of 97. The Bookstore's Manual Typewriter
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    7. The Bookstore's Manual Typewriter

    Each morning Gustafson adds paper to the manual typewriter in the basement's sitting area, and throughout the day people come down to type. They leave love notes, dirty jokes, pleas, poems, to-do lists, affirmations, even marriage proposals.

  • 8 of 98. Literati Bookstore Open For Business
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    8. Literati Bookstore Open For Business

    April 2013: The bookstore officially opens. A local artist draws the hand-lettered window signs, Gustafson's mother paints section headings, and the employees hand-stamp the Literati logo on shopping bags. Chamberlin writes, "Quite literally everything in Literati has been touched by human hands."

  • 9 of 99. Gustafson and Lowe Outside Literati
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    9. Gustafson and Lowe Outside Literati

    After many long and difficult months filled with endless financial calculations and guesses, overwhelming challenges, and a lot of hard work, Gustafson and Lowe stand outside their bookstore looking happy, energized, and inspired.

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YesYes Books

Posted 12.18.13

In addition to traditional poetry collections and chapbooks, independent press YesYes Books also publishes a number of experimental and multimedia works, many of which incorporate visual art. Since its founding in 2011, the press's innovative projects have included Poetry Shots, fully illustrated digital chapbooks; and Frequencies, Volume One, a poetry and contemporary music anthology. The Bones of Us, a graphic poetry collection by J. Bradley with art by Adam Scott Mazer, will be released in February. The following images highlight a selection of both past and forthcoming experimental projects from YesYes Books.

Article: 
  • 1 of 7Frequencies, Volume One
    Credit: YesYes Books

    Frequencies, Volume One

    Released in January 2013, Frequencies, Volume One is a chapbook and music anthology that features poetry by Bob Hicok and Phillip B. Williams and short fiction by Molly Gaudry, with accompanying music by indie rock bands Here We Go Magic and Outlands and singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten. The cover art was created by Matthew Cusick, a painter and collage artist who creates realistic scenes and portraits using old maps.

  • 2 of 7Poetry Shots: American Poem
    Credit: YesYes Books

    Poetry Shots: American Poem

    In The Blue Teratorn, released as part of the Poetry Shots series in 2012, Dorothea Lasky’s poems are illustrated by Kaori Mitsushima. In a post on her blog, Lasky describes this digital chapbook as "a flock of scary birds" meant to accompany her third full-length collection, Thunderbird, published in 2012 by Wave Books.

  • 3 of 7Poetry Shots: How to Survive a Hotel Fire
    Credit: YesYes Books

    Poetry Shots: How to Survive a Hotel Fire

    Megan Laurel created illustrations for the title poem from Angela Veronica Wong's 2012 digital chapbook, How to Survive a Hotel Fire. Wong's full-length collection of the same name was published later that year by Coconut Books.

  • 4 of 7Poetry Shots: How We Molested the Sky
    Credit: YesYes Books

    Poetry Shots: How We Molested the Sky

    Art for Dana Guthrie Martin’s collection, Toward What Is Awful, was created by Ghangbin Kim, a student of Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. Martin, who has published two other chapbooks, edits the online poetry journal Cascadia Review.

  • 5 of 7The Bones of Us: A Letter to a Wedding Photo That's Not Mine
    Credit: YesYes Books

    The Bones of Us: A Letter to a Wedding Photo That's Not Mine

    For the graphic poetry collection The Bones of Us, artist Adam Scott Mazer illustrated J. Bradley's poems first in pencil, then overlaid in ink applied with a brush. In the poem "A Letter to a Wedding Photo That's Not Mine," Bradley writes, "May you never need / to throw your memories / out an airlock, watch / as they turn blue."

  • 6 of 7The Bones of Us: Cosmonaut
    Credit: YesYes Books

    The Bones of Us: Cosmonaut

    In "Cosmonaut," Bradley describes a house as "a pulmonary system of pocket universes" where "we lose ourselves in the vacuum of Auto-Tune, drift toward the outer rims of conversations and plastic Dixie Cups." He writes, "In the morning, we will smack our lips, ruin the cotton in our cheeks; our heads are capsules with cracks in the seams."

  • 7 of 7The Bones of Us: Yale Street
    Credit: YesYes Books

    The Bones of Us: Yale Street

    Mazer's illustrations provided inspiration for many of the revisions that J. Bradley made to his poems. In "Yale Street," Bradley writes, "When we traded electric currents through the tips of our noses, revenge evaporated from my body. I clutched your hip like the handle of a hammer, a box of nails; you are a home worth building."

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Unterberg Poetry Center at Seventy-Five

Posted 11.1.13

This year the storied Unterberg Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y in New York City celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary. The first in a series of events to mark the occasion, an exhibition called Love the Words—which includes more than eighty archival photos, letters, and ephemera detailing the Poetry Center's history—will be on display at the 92nd Street Y's Weill Art Gallery until November 25. The following is a collection of photos from the exhibit, featuring some of the most influential poets and writers to have graced the Unterberg stage.

Article: 
  • 1 of 8Allen Ginsberg
    Credit: Jack Sirdofsky

    Allen Ginsberg

    Allen Ginsberg gives a reading at the Unterberg Poetry Center in 1970.

  • 2 of 8Donald Barthelme and Grace Paley
    Credit: Lura Burnette

    Donald Barthelme and Grace Paley

    Donald Barthelme and Grace Paley, both known most widely for their short fiction, backstage at Unterberg in 1971.

  • 3 of 8Gwendolyn Brooks
    Credit: Lura Burnette

    Gwendolyn Brooks

    Gwendolyn Brooks—who won a Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1950 and was named the poet laureate of Illinois in 1968—at the Poetry Center in 1971.

  • 4 of 8John Ashbery
    Credit: Jack Prelutsky

    John Ashbery

    John Ashbery, the winner of the Poetry Center's inaugural Boston Review/"Discovery" Prize, in 1970.

  • 5 of 8Marianne Moore and W. H. Auden
    Credit: Diane Dorr-Dorynek

    Marianne Moore and W. H. Auden

    Poets Marianne Moore and W. H. Auden at the Poetry Center in 1966.

  • 6 of 8Pablo Neruda
    Credit: Jack Sirdofsky

    Pablo Neruda

    Poet Pablo Neruda at Unterberg in 1972.

  • 7 of 8Seamus Heaney
    Credit: Jack Prelutsky

    Seamus Heaney

    Poet Seamus Heaney relaxing backstage in 1971.

  • 8 of 8W. H. Auden
    Credit: Diane Dorr-Dorynek

    W. H. Auden

    Poet W. H. Auden backstage in 1966.

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Matt Kish's Heart of Darkness

Posted 11.1.13

In November Tin House Books will publish artist Matt Kish's illustrated adaptation of Joseph Conrad's inimitable novel Heart of Darkness. Kish, whose first graphic adaptation, Moby-Dick in Pictures, was published by Tin House in 2011, has created one hundred illustrations to accompany Conrad's classic, each based upon a selected excerpt of the text. The following images from the book are presented alongside the passages that inspired them.

Article: 
  • 1 of 7Into This Nowhere
    Credit: Matt Kish

    Into This Nowhere

    “Fancy a man lugging with him a book of that description into this nowhere and studying it—and making notes—in cipher at that! It was an extravagant mystery.”

    Page 93, ink on watercolor paper.

  • 2 of 7Man of War
    Credit: Matt Kish

    Man of War

    “Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn’t even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush. It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign dropped limp like a rag; the muzzles of the long six-inch guns stuck out all over the low hull; the greasy, slimy swell swung her up lazily and let her down, swaying her thin masts. In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent. Pop, would go one of the six-inch guns; a small flame would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech—and nothing happened. Nothing could happen.”

    Page 29, ink and marker on watercolor paper.

  • 3 of 7Nothing Earthly
    Credit: Matt Kish

    Nothing Earthly

    “They were dying slowly—it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now, nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom.

    Page 37, ink on watercolor paper.

  • 4 of 7Overboard
    Credit: Matt Kish

    Overboard

    “Then without more ado I tipped him overboard. The current snatched him as though he had been a wisp of grass, and I saw the body roll over twice before I lost sight of it forever.”

    Page 129, ink and marker on watercolor paper.

  • 5 of 7Portrait
    Credit: Matt Kish

    Portrait

    “Thus I was left at last with a slim packet of letters and the girl’s portrait. She struck me as beautiful—I mean she had a beautiful expression.”

    Page 187, ink on watercolor paper.

  • 6 of 7The Trail
    Credit: Matt Kish

    The Trail

    “As soon as I got on the bank I saw a trail—a broad trail through the grass. I remember the exultation with which I said to myself, ‘He can’t walk—he is crawling on all fours—I’ve got him.’”

    Page 165, ink and marker on watercolor paper.

  • 7 of 7The Uttermost Ends
    Credit: Matt Kish

    The Uttermost Ends

    "Marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent, in the pose of a meditating Buddha. Nobody moved for a time. “We have lost the first of the ebb,” said the director, suddenly. I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness."

    Page 199, ink on watercolor paper.

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Poetry of the Wild

Posted 8.13.13

For ten years ecological artist and sculptor Ana Flores has been bringing "Poetry of the Wild"—a project that combines poetry, visual art, and nature in an effort to connect people to the land around them—to locations both public and wild. Each installation features a box or sculpture, built by artists and community members using recycled materials, that contains an original or classic poem as well as a journal for passersby to contribute reflections of their own.

Article: 
  • 1 of 11A Human Error
    Credit: Ana Flores

    A Human Error

    Lucy Turner, age ten—who contributed an original poem to this year's Poetry of the Wild installation in Mystic, Connecticut—and her mother, Pam, study a poetry box during this summer's waterfront installation at the University of Connecticut on Avery Point. Box by artist Susan Schultz; poem, "A Human Error," by Nancy Willard.

  • 2 of 11In the Trees
    Credit: Ana Flores

    In the Trees

    Inspired by this summer's installation on Avery Point, a runner shares her own contributions to the project. Tree sculpture poetry box by Randall Patterson; poem, "Raven Night Love," by Alexander Waid.

  • 3 of 11It is Born
    Credit: Ana Flores

    It is Born

    A poetry box located on the Mystic River shoreline during the summer of 2011. Box by Ana Flores, featuring the poem "It is Born" by Pablo Neruda.

  • 4 of 11Keep Walking
    Credit: Ana Flores

    Keep Walking

    Poetry box and poem titled "Sigue Caminando/Keep Walking," both by Ana Flores, included in this summer's installation at the University of Connecticut on Avery Point.

  • 5 of 11On Meadowbrook Pond
    Credit: Ana Flores

    On Meadowbrook Pond

    A poetry box by Marnie LaCouture, housing the poem "Roads" by Ruth Bigood, mounted to a tree along the shore of Meadowbrook Pond in Richmond, Rhode Island.

  • 6 of 11On the Beach
    Credit: Ana Flores

    On the Beach

    A beach-goer takes in a box built by Victoria Brennan, featuring a quote by writer and environmental conservationist Rachel Carson, at Mitchell College beach in New London, Connecticut.

  • 7 of 11Said My Soul
    Credit: Ana Flores

    Said My Soul

    A poetry box in the New London, Connecticut, public library, part of an installation during the summer of 2012. Box by Ana Flores; poem, "Come Said My Soul," by Walt Whitman.

  • 8 of 11The Blue Blanket
    Credit: Ana Flores

    The Blue Blanket

    Visitors to Mystic River inspect a poetry box during the Mystic Arts Center installation in the summer of 2011. Box by Ana Flores, featuring a poem titled "The Blue Blanket" by Sue Ellen Thompson.

  • 9 of 11The House
    Credit: Frank Buddingtree

    The House

    Lily Kane, age nine, prepares to recite her poem "The House," featured inside a box at Haley Farm Reserve in Groton, Connecticut, part of this summer's Mystic Arts Center installation. Box by Syma Ebbin and Michael Kane.

  • 10 of 11The Silk That Rustles
    Credit: Ana Flores

    The Silk That Rustles

    Poetry box by Diane Barcelo and poem by Michael Bradford titled "It is the Silk that Rustles," part of this summer's installation on Avery Point.

  • 11 of 11Till Sundown
    Credit: Ana Flores

    Till Sundown

    A poetry box built by Ana Flores, featuring a quote by author and environmentalist John Muir, located on the Napatree Point peninsula in Westerly, Rhode Island.

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Al-Mutanabbi Street Inventory Project

Posted 5.1.13

In 2010 San Francisco poet and bookseller Beau Beausoleil founded the Al-Mutanabbi Street Inventory Project to commemorate the 2007 bombing of Baghdad's famous bookselling thoroughfare, which left thirty people dead and the city's literary center devastated. Since then, Beausoleil has commissioned 261 artist books, created by artists from around the world to celebrate al-Mutanabbi Street and the resilience of the written word. This past March, a group of the books was selected for exhibition by the San Francisco Center for the Book; Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, on display at the center until May 11, includes fifty-five artist books from the inventory. The images below represent just a few of the works currently on display. 

Article: 
  • 1 of 8Evidence Vol. 48, 6134, 27, 537, 1129
    Credit: Courtesy of San Francisco Center for the Book

    Evidence Vol. 48, 6134, 27, 537, 1129

    "Evidence Vol. 48, 6134, 27, 537, 1129" by Ania Gilmore and Annie Zeybekoglu, United States.

  • 2 of 8Fragile
    Credit: Courtesy of San Francisco Center for the Book

    Fragile

    "Fragile" by Dorothy Krause, United States. 

  • 3 of 8Monday
    Credit: Courtesy of San Francisco Center for the Book

    Monday

    "Monday" by Kathleen O'Connell, Peru. 

  • 4 of 8Redemption
    Credit: Courtesy of San Francisco Center for the Book

    Redemption

    "Redemption" by Lizanne van Essen, United Kingdom.

  • 5 of 8The Song Lives On
    Credit: Courtesy of San Francisco Center for the Book

    The Song Lives On

    "The Song Lives On" by John Bently, United Kingdom.

  • 6 of 8Until It Is in Flame
    Credit: Courtesy of San Francisco Center for the Book

    Until It Is in Flame

    "Until It Is in Flame" by Beau Beausoleil and Andrea Hassiba, United States. 

  • 7 of 8Witness
    Credit: Courtesy of San Francisco Center for the Book

    Witness

    "Witness" by Miriam Schaer, United States. 

  • 8 of 8World of Books
    Credit: Courtesy of San Francisco Center for the Book

    World of Books

    "World of Books" by Sas Colby, United States. 

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The Nantucket Book Festival

Posted 2.28.13

For the opener of The Spring 2013 Guide to Inspired Writing Retreats, contributing editor Jeremiah Chamberlin traveled to Nantucket to get a feeling for an exciting new book festival that is growing on a beautiful island known primarily as a summer playground.

  • 1 of 91. Nantucket Harbor
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    1. Nantucket Harbor

    Approaching Nantucket Harbor on the ferry, the First Congregational Church is visible rising above town. Built atop Beacon Hill in the early 1700s, the church is located just a few blocks from downtown Nantucket, on Centre Street.

  • 2 of 92. Orange and Main
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    2. Orange and Main

    The festival is held in downtown Nantucket, seen here from the corner of Orange Street and Main, near Mitchell’s Book Corner, looking northeast toward Centre Street. The Pacific National Bank sits on the corner (left) next to the United Methodist Church, whose Greek columns are visible in the center of the photograph.

  • 3 of 93. The Atheneum
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    3. The Atheneum

    The Atheneum, Natucket’s library, was one of the primary venues for book festival events. Built as a private literary institution in 1834, the building—and all its contents—were lost in the Great Fire of 1846. But it was rebuilt in 1847, reopening only a year later. During the late 1800s such luminaries as Fredrick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and others gave lectures here. In 1900 the Atheneum became a public library. And in 1996 the building was renovated, restoring the Great Hall on the second floor.

  • 4 of 94. Wendy Hudson
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    4. Wendy Hudson

    Wendy Hudson, founder of the Nantucket Book Festival and owner of the local bookstores Nantucket Bookworks and Mitchell’s Book Corner, inaugurates the festival at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House.

  • 5 of 95. Richard Burns
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    5. Richard Burns

    Following Hudson's inauguration of the Nantucket Book Festival at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, Richard (Dick) Burns introduces the panelists for a conversation titled Time, Place, and Nantucket, moderated by Christopher Lydon and featuring authors Pam Belluck (Island Practice), Elin Hilderbrand (Summerland), Nathaniel Philbrick (Why Read Moby Dick?), and Nancy Thayer (Heat Wave). Burns is the comanager of Nantucket Bookworks, where he started working in 1989, back when the Claflins owned the store.

  • 6 of 96. Andre Dubus III
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    6. Andre Dubus III

    Andre Dubus III reads from his memoir, Townie (W. W. Norton, 2011) in the Great Hall of the Nantucket Atheneum as part of The Prose Writer and the Poet with poet Wyn Coooper.

  • 7 of 97. Sperm Whale
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    7. Sperm Whale

    This forty-six-foot skeleton of a sperm whale is suspended from the ceiling of the Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) Whaling Museum, which is located in a former candle factory on Broad Street. Built in 1846 by the Mitchell family after the Great Fire, it served as a candleworks until the 1860s, when the whaling era ended. In the years that followed, it served a variety of purposes: warehouse, office space, and eventually storage for antiques. In 1929 it was purchased by the NHA and converted into the Whaling Museum. It was renovated in 2005.

  • 8 of 98. Natucket Bookworks
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    8. Natucket Bookworks

    Nantucket Bookworks is just a few blocks away from the NHA Whaling Museum in downtown Nantucket. Patti Claflin and her husband, Prentice, opened the original store in 1972 in the basement of the Mooney Building. Not long after, they moved the store to 25 Broad Street, where it remains. Wendy Hudson, the current owner, first fell in love with the bookstore when she was twelve, after visiting the island aboard her grandfather’s boat. She began working as a part-time bookseller in the 1990s, around the same time she cofounded Cisco Brewers with her husband, Randy. Several years later, at the stroke of midnight as the new millennium was ushered in, she became owner of the store.

  • 9 of 99. Mitchell's Book Corner
    Credit: Jeremiah Chamberlin

    9. Mitchell's Book Corner

    Mitchell’s Book Corner showcases books by authors participating in the Nantucket Book Festival. The store was founded in 1968 by Henry "Mitch" Mitchell Havemeyer and Mary Allen Sargent Havemeyer. After spending summers on Nantucket for a decade, the Havemeyers left suburban New York to live on Nantucket full-time, where they purchased the 1846 brick building located at 54 Main Street, on the corner of Orange Street. The Havemeyers both passed away in the 1970s, but their daughter Mimi (Mary Chilton Havemeyer Beman) kept up the business until Wendy Schmidt purchased it in 2008. In April of 2012, Wendy Hudson bought the store and its inventory and founded Nantucket Book Partners, which comprises both Mitchell’s and Nantucket Bookworks.

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The Revolution: Report From Literary Egypt

Posted 2.28.13

For his article "The Revolution: Report From Literary Egypt," contributing editor Stephen Morison Jr, who lives in Madaba-Manja, Jordan, traveled to Cairo twice—first in late August 2012 and again in early October—and spoke with writers, publishers, and booksellers about the Arab Spring of 2011, freedom of expression and censorship, and the ongoing protests of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party in the city's Tahrir Square.

Article: 
  • 1 of 91. Barricade
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    1. Barricade

    The roads leading into the Garden City neighborhood of Cairo are barricaded by nine-foot walls of concrete blocks put up by the authorities
    to keep out the protesters.

  • 2 of 92. Headquarters
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    2. Headquarters

    The headquarters of Egypt's former ruling party, a fifteen-story monolith situated between the Egyptian Museum (home to mummies and Pharaonic treasures) and the Nile, is a ransacked, burned-out hulk.

  • 3 of 93. Graffiti
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    3. Graffiti

    Elaborate graffiti covers the walls of buildings in Cairo.

  • 4 of 94. Graffiti
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    4. Graffiti

    The graffiti in Cairo reflects the political mood of the city: images of former president Hosni Mubarak as a monster and the newly elected President Mohamed Morsi looking calm and charismatic, hijab-covered grandmothers cheering on gun-waving protesters, a spray-painted computer power button and beneath it the Arabic words “the people,” and countless other symbols and sayings.

  • 5 of 95. Kotob Khan
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    5. Kotob Khan

    Right to left: Egyptian novelists Al Taher Sharkawy and Mohamed Rabie, short story writer Aman Abdel Rehim, and bookseller and publisher Karam Youssef at Kotob Khan, Youseff's bookstore in Cairo.

  • 6 of 96. Muhamed Abdelnaby
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    6. Muhamed Abdelnaby

    Short story writer, novelist, and translator Muhamed "Nebo" Abdelnaby at the rooftop restaurant of the Happy City Hotel in Cairo. Aldelnaby, who was raised in an Islamic school, has a laissez-faire attitude about the prospect of increased censorship in Egypt and points out that he can self-publish on the Internet.

  • 7 of 97. Mohammed Abu il Dahab
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    7. Mohammed Abu il Dahab

    Short story writer Mohammed Abu il Dahab at a basement bar in Old Cairo. “Things will become hard for writers who write like me,” he says. “Many of my friends and I wrote in, you can say, a free way about sex, religion, politics. It seems like in these days to come, this will be difficult.”

  • 8 of 98. Tahrir Square Protest
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    8. Tahrir Square Protest

    Protesters gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square on October 20, 2012.

  • 9 of 99. Children Protest
    Credit: Stephen Morison Jr.

    9. Children Protest

    Two girls, ages four or five, wearing little Palestinian kaffiyeh head scarves, join the protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square on October 20, 2012. They hold a sign that says in Arabic: “The system is killing me; my blood is cheap for you.”

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Cozy Classics for Young and Old

Posted 1.1.13

Brothers Jack and Holman Wang teamed up in 2012 to create Cozy Classics, an infant primer board-book series that adapts classic novels into twelve simple, child-friendly words that appear alongside photographs of handmade figurines. The brothers create the characters, sets, and props themselves through the painstaking process of needle-felting, a handcraft that involves the shaping of woolen fibers with a barbed needle. Each figure takes between eighteen and twenty-five hours to create. The first two titles—Herman Melville's Moby-Dick and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice—were released this past November by Vancouver-based Simply Read Books; the next release, a cozy take on Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, is forthcoming in April.

Article: 
  • 1 of 1501. Moby-Dick
    Credit:

    01. Moby-Dick

    The cozy adaptation of Moby-Dick introduces young readers to Melville's classic sea-faring adventure. 

  • 2 of 1502. Sailor
    Credit:

    02. Sailor

    Ishmael, whose fibrous figurine illustrates the word "sailor," sets off on his famous voyage. 

  • 3 of 1503. Boat
    Credit:

    03. Boat

    The meticulously needle-felted Pequod, Captain Ahab's famous whaleship, runs alongside the word "boat." 

  • 4 of 1504. Find
    Credit:

    04. Find

    To accompany the word "find," our hero is perched in a needle-felted crow's nest, one of many handmade set pieces in the Cozy Classics series. 

  • 5 of 1505. Whale
    Credit:

    05. Whale

    The elusive white whale himself, carefully needle-felted right down to the teeth. 

  • 6 of 1506. Pride and Prejudice
    Credit:

    06. Pride and Prejudice

    The cozy cover of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, published this past November by Simply Read Books.

  • 7 of 1507. Friends
    Credit:

    07. Friends

    In the opening scene, the felted figures of Charles Bingley and Mr. Darcy introduce the word "friends" to the youngest of Jane Austen fans. 

  • 8 of 1508. Mean
    Credit:

    08. Mean

    Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet teach readers what it means to be "mean." 

  • 9 of 1509. Muddy
    Credit:

    09. Muddy

    Elizabeth gets muddy. This scene, among others in the series, was shot by the creators using natural outdoor backgrounds.

  • 10 of 1510. Read
    Credit:

    10. Read

    Demonstrating the word "read," Elizabeth Bennet holds Mr. Darcy's famous letter—which, like the characters themselves, is also carefully needle-felted. 

  • 11 of 1511. Les Misérables
    Credit:

    11. Les Misérables

    The cozy cover of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, forthcoming from Simply Read Books in April. 

  • 12 of 1512. Poor
    Credit:

    12. Poor

    In the opening scene, a very poor Jean Valjean, recently released from prison, wanders the streets of Digne in search of a place to stay. 

  • 13 of 1513. Fire
    Credit:

    13. Fire

    This needle-felted illustratration representing the word "fire" is set against a delicately hand-crafted background.  

  • 14 of 1514. Sad
    Credit:

    14. Sad

    The young Cosette—at the window of a handmade miniature set, with carefully constructed broom in hand—dreams of a day when she will no longer be sad. 

  • 15 of 1515. Garden
    Credit:

    15. Garden

    The scene depicted here, whose needle-felted figures stand before a living garden, illustrates one of the cozier moments of Hugo's tale. 

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The Architecture of Building Stories

Posted 10.4.12

Chris Ware's newest graphic novel, Building Stories, published by Pantheon in October, is actually fourteen discreet books, booklets, magazines, newspapers, and pamphlets, all contained in printed box. More than ten years in the making, the work imagines the inhabitants of a three-story Chicago apartment building, including the protagonist, a thirtysomething woman who has yet to find someone with whom to spend the rest of her life; a couple who can hardly bear to be in each other’s company; and the elderly landlady who has lived alone for decades.

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    Credit: David Hamsley

    Building Stories 1

    "With the increasing electronic incorporeality of existence, sometimes it's reassuring—perhaps even necessary—to have something to hold on to," Ware writes in an author's note of sorts to Building Stories. "Thus within this colorful keepsake box the purchaser will find a full-apportioned variety of reading material ready to address virtually any imaginable artistic or poetic taste, from the corrosive sarcasm of youth to the sickening earnestness of maturity—while discovering a protagonist wondering if she'll ever move from the rented close quarters of lonely young adulthood to the mortgaged expanse of love and marriage."

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    Credit: David Hamsley

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    For readers it’s a veritable treasure chest, a deeply layered narrative that can turn, as those familiar with Ware’s work have come to expect, on the subtlest of gestures, on the simplest poetry of a character’s heartbreaking monologue. But for writers it’s a rare opportunity to see the architecture of storytelling stripped bare, to witness an artist at the top of his game as he not only writes his way through the inner lives of his characters, but also transforms his adjectives and adverbs into a stunning visual narrative.

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    "I don’t place a premium on either the images or the words; I try to let both suggest the direction of the storytelling, from the phrases that occur to me as I’m writing to something as uncontrollable as the gesture of a character when I draw him or her," says Ware. "Sometimes even an accident of the pencil will create a strange movement of the head or hand that changes everything entirely.... I don’t think this approach is really that different from what regular writers do, either; as I understand it, we all have these alternate realities playing in our minds—false memories about both real and imaginary people...."

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    Credit: David Hamsley

    Building Stories 4

    "I don’t script anything," Ware says, "because then all I’d be doing is illustrating my words, which to me isn’t cartooning. Cartooning is a mysterious process that involves writing with pictures and seeing what recollections they dredge up and superimpose as one reads what one has drawn (which, hopefully, is analogous to what happens when someone else reads them too). The mind is a very organized thing, and organically produced comic strips illuminate its structures in a strange and very tangible way, I think."

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    "Though my reading of poetry is humiliatingly limited, I realize what I’m aiming for is almost a kind of synesthesia, which I guess is the clinical description of poetry," Ware says. "I also consider the artist Joseph Cornell—whose work was a big inspiration for Building Stories—to be as much a poet as a visual artist.

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    "The format [of Building Stories] is both an attempt to get at that non-beginning/non-end of every story that we have within our minds, and also at the notion of immersing oneself in a memory to the point that one can almost lose all sense of the present," Ware says. "I wanted readers to experience something as if it were happening right in front of them, but then discover later that the story actually happened in the character’s distant past, with all the uncertainty that suggests. I hope for the inverse of this experience as well."

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    "A book, if taken care of, communicates so much about its time and writer, from the tiny, crinkly pages of the leather-bound miniatures of the 1880s to the crappy, wood-pulp paperbacks of the 1970s—it shows what our culture values at any given time," Ware says. "You also don’t have to plug them in or try to find a vitamin-D-deficient computer whiz who knows some outdated compression code to read them. All you need is a working eye and a brain and you’ve got one of the most mysterious interactive experiences ever invented."

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