Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Emotional Art: Shakespeare

The other day in the library, I was instantly distracted and brought to a screeching (well, maybe not screeching... it is a library) halt by a book left lying on a table. I hadn't seen it as it went through the steps of purchase, unpack, catalogue, and processing before it went out to a display shelf of new titles. When I saw the cover, though, I knew, instantly, that I would love what I found inside. It was a magical combination of both love at first sight and judging a book by its cover. :)

The book is a re-printing of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet", illustrated by Kevin Stanton (check out his blog and website), and while the text is lovely (it really is), what struck me first was the exquisite paper art illustrations on the cover and throughout the book. They are layered three-tone pieces- the cover is Romeo looking at Juliet lying on a bier, surrounded by roses. The colors are a deep purple, creamy cream and eye-catching red. The picture absolutely does NOT do it justice. In the picture it looks lovely, but in real life it is breathtaking. All but the photo with my hand in it are from his website.
Scattered inside the book are more layered paper art pieces, including the garden and balcony-- easily my favorite one- the detail is amazing!! This is a photo I took of the page-- hence my hand holding the layers down for the camera. (Is taking and posting this photo illegal since it's someone else's art? If you know, tell me... I'll remove it if it is. If I can find the artist on Twitter I'll ask him...)
The stars, the blossoms, the paving stones, the wall-- the balcony and arched widows? Gorgeous!!

He also illustrated Macbeth. Our library doesn't have it (yet??), but I imagine it's just as beautiful. This is the cover.
And check out this blood-soaked knife. I LOVE IT!! I would hang THAT on my wall! Seriously... on a literature-themed wall, of course. Not where my Mickey Mouse sketches or photos of my kids hang...
The artwork is evocative and sinuous- I can feel the ghosts approaching. I would love to get my hands on this book-- Macbeth has long been my favorite Shakespeare work. 

In addition to the layered inserts, there are many detailed illustrations in the same style, printed on the pages of the books, such as this next example: 
Just beautiful. Again, the photos cannot hope to compare to the real-life versions. If you have some extra book-buying money this year, these would be money well spent. 

Along with all the stunning visual awesomeness, there are many other little treats in these books. In "Romeo and Juliet", (and I'm sure "Macbeth" has the same), there is an excellent introduction by Mario DiGangi, an article about Shakespeare and England at the time he lived by David Scott Kastan, followed by another article by Kastan explaining the words and language used by Shakespeare. There are footnotes and translations for every single page of the play-- fantastic for young readers just getting their Shakespearean feet wet, but also helpful for us oldies who have read and loved Shakespeare to go a little deeper, and maybe refresh in our minds the layers hidden in the text.

Following the play are a section of longer notes about various items within the play, an article by Kastan "Editing Romeo and Juliet", and a trio of articles by DiGangi about the various productions of "Romeo and Juliet" over the years-- from the earliest stage to the modern cinematic productions, including works "Inspired by Romeo and Juliet" including, of course, "West Side Story"

The cultural implications in showing these books to youth and children are fantastic! I could give my kids a lesson in art- word and visual art all in one amazing book, as well as immersing them for a moment in both history and theater. *Rubbing hands together* Where to begin...

The book is hefty, 390 pages in all, hardbound and thick, but, oh, it's beautiful. I want to own the pair of them... but where would I keep them? These are more than just books- they're works of art! I don't know how one would display such beauty in a home... especially a teenage-boy-filled home such as mine. But I would like to try. These are emotive, energetic pieces of art and I just love them.

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