We’re delighted to announce that Thomas David will be our third Writer-in-Residence—and our first biographer—at the Standard, East Village, in downtown Manhattan. He will be in residence for three weeks this July. We wish him a happy and productive stay. Read More
At the opening for the Drawing Center’s “All in One,” Tomi Ungerer’s first U.S. retrospective, swarms of visitors obscured the art on the walls. The crowd bent toward the artist, who was holding court and a glass of red wine, though none was being served. Ungerer, who is eighty-three, was in his element. For him, this retrospective is a kind of homecoming. After more than forty years in exile, his career is finding its rightful place in the New York art world.
The Drawing Center exhibition, curated by Claire Gilman, begins with Ungerer’s earliest doodles as a child growing up in Nazi-occupied Alsace, where under the nationalistic duress of war he first learned to be an outlaw. Delicately subversive, they are inscribed with a mature, swaggering humor that takes a subject as terrifying as Hitler and renders him a fool.
In 1956, Ungerer was lured to New York City at the height of print, when publications offered vast opportunities for creative illustrators. Without contacts or even a high school diploma, Ungerer impressed art directors with his idiosyncratic drawing style and witty candor. He became sought after for advertising and editorial work, and most prominently, his unconventional children’s books, which featured society’s most repulsive characters—robbers, snakes, pigs, beggars—as compassionate protagonists.
While working professionally in these PG-rated circles, he remained a deeply political artist, self-publishing bold posters against the Vietnam War, a book of harsh satire called The Underground Sketchbook, and sadomasochistic erotic drawings. But upon discovering his erotic work, the children’s-book community was scandalized. His books were removed from public libraries and his reputation tarnished. Dejected and unable to find work, he left New York in 1971, moving to Nova Scotia with his wife before finding a permanent home in Cork, Ireland.
This defection cost Ungerer the renown he deserves. It wasn’t until 1998 that he received the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest achievement for children’s-book authors, and a sign of the recent reappraisal of his career. Recent years have seen reissues of his children’s books in English and a large catalogue of his erotic drawings. In Strasbourg, he has a museum dedicated to his work, and in 2012, his life was the subject of a documentary film. Read More
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” —L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
October has turned cold. We’ve had snow the past two days. I’d been dreading the turn of the season, the trees shaking loose their final leaves. From my porch, looking across the bare hills at night, lights shine nakedly on houses no longer obscured. The garden looks dead and dank, no more soft edges along the forest, sounds from the road not so muffled. Everything is stark. Things are what they are.
Moody Road Studios marks its one-year anniversary next month and I’ve been compelled to take stock, to really look at the bare hills and valleys. I boxed up my first returns this week, a mix of hardcovers about to come out in paperback and some flopped experiments—design books and art books and a charmingly earnest photography book called The French Cat that I felt sure would be one of my bestsellers but barely moved.
The familiar shiver of desperation creeps up my spine as I toggle between the shop’s bank account and the calendar, anticipating the holiday season. The summer crowds died down many weeks ago and I’m beginning to feel like one of those stuntmen stretched between two unhitched train cars, feet on one platform and fingertips clawing at the other.
But even if the crowds have died down, the enthusiasm has not, and I think this is what keeps me stretching. During our October reading series—featuring the incomparable Carolyn Turgeon, Kelly Braffet, and Mermer Blakeslee—the crowd was smaller but we still sold out of all three authors’ books. Last week, a friend of the store picked up five copies of Mason Currey’s creativity bible Daily Rituals to give to her kids for Christmas. People have placed orders for more books than ever this month, new titles and old, from Edwidge Dandicat’s Claire of the Sea Light to Angela Carter’s Night at the Circus and Marilyn Hacker’s Love, Death and the Changing of Seasons. Just today, three separate visitors stopped by my desk after browsing to tell me how much they love bookstores and can’t imagine a world without real books. Of course, only one of those three actually made a purchase. Their words were still reassuring, even if they didn’t help me stay in business.
Ultimately, it’s this love of books that buoys me. Read More
We at the Review are big fans of the work of Tomi Ungerer, so we were delighted to hear about this documentary on the idiosyncratic illustrator. As the trailer and this interview with the director show, it promises to be memorable.