The darkness outside makes me think of night, yet it is the break of day. I went to my bed to smooth things out and retrieved four books near the western wall.
‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle’ by Washington Irving, ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ by Stephen Craane, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ by Jonathan Swift, ‘Ivanhoe’ by Walter Scott are the four books that were nestled among the jostled covers and the red body pillow.
The books are now piled on my desk in front of me, or, to the right and at my elbow. They are the Great Illustrated Classics versions that have a simplified abridged and retold text and an illustration on every facing page. I love the series. I love the black and white line drawing illustrations by Pablo Marcos studios. Pablo Marcos was an comic book artist whose work was widely seen in mainstream comic books in the 1970’s.
I find it interesting to see how the artist graphically depicts the scenes that are illustrated. The written story is like a Cliff Notes plot summary with little charm. But the drawings can be delightful. I come back to these books again and again and find pleasure when I open to any page. I have the books near me when something is loading on the laptop, or when Youtube has a long commercial that I mute and let play so Youtube can get there advertising money. I catch up on the classics.
I first remember the Great Illustrated Classics coming to may attention when my sister gave my son a set of about a dozen books from the series that were printed in a small pocket size paperback. Like a book snob that I was then I turned my nose up at the lowbrow retelling of the stories, but I had a guilty pleasure in looking at the pictures. I was a stage then as a twenty-something who read ‘serious’ books that I should be reading books that didn’t have any pictures.
But, I love pictures. I love line drawings. So I couldn’t keep away. I often carried the little books with me to read on the subway train or on a bus. The simple retellings gave me a chance to review books I’d already read, and think about them again.
About ten years ago I saw the books online from the publisher in two large sets. One for boys, and one for girls. I ordered both sets and have an almost complete set of the Great Illustrated Classics – at least the great books section. I still bring these picture books with me when I’m on the subway and copy the pictures to practice my own drawing, and to get inside the artists head through imitation.
I like being able to find the text of a classic work, say ‘Ivanhoe’ by Walter Scott. I look the text up on Project Gutenberg display it on my 17″ laptop screen with large type, and I might also look up an audio reading of the text on Librivox. So I have picture books, story readers, large print text….all I need is a lunchbox with the stories heroes pictured.