...is ever so much more fun than doing the washing up. ironing, reading stuff for tonight, or attempting to be creative. So here we are reading Tristram Shandy by Sterne and Rowson [info on Rowson here - Cartoonist Laureate, eh!].
But it's so good. (If the ravens could purr (well, actually we can), imagine they're dong it now!). The physical book itself is fine: green cloth binding seems attractively warm to at least one of the cats and the book size just about right for Little to curl up on without too much overspill. Result of course: green cloth binding now slightly marred by white cat fur. The end papers are the marbled paper that looks as if a small child has been blowing bubbles through ink and a rather organic/cellular looking faded red with a green background. Inside beautiful thick white pages to set off the cartooning.
We've always thought that Rowson and Steve Bell<1> had similar styles of drawing, but actually the more we look the finer Rowson's line looks. It's not that the caricatures are less savage, if anything Rowson's more cruel, but the pen line and overall draughtsmanship are finer. OK, so this is a book, most of Steve Bell's stuff goes straight into printed newspapers or online. Rowson's whale reminds me of Bell's whale that he used at one point in the If... strip.<2>
And what does Rowson do with his fine lines? .Well, quite a lot of Sterne survives, suitably, and obscenely, illustrated. The penis-shaped hot air balloon is particularly fine. But the additions, especially the anachronistic ones, are a joy. The Aubrey Beardsley plate (very restrained, presumably deliberately, compared to some of Beardsley's own work) is great. The black page remains from the original ("Alas, poor Yorick!") and later<3> we get a new "odd" page which begins "0011010001111" and continues in like fashion (we won't quote it all!). The facing page has a picture of "Stevinus's Miraculous Calculating Engine" with the following exchange:
SO WHAT'S GOING ON, BOSS?
SOME DANGEROUS NERD HAS BLOODY DOWNLOADED THE ENTIRE TEXT OF "TRISTRAM SHANDY" INTO SODDING CYBERSPACE!
Overleaf we get several alternative versions of TS, including a Martin Amis and a magical realism one, culminating in a reference to Rowson's other great "adaptation", The Waste Land, with Eliot (the other TS) himself quoting "Datta Dayadhvam Damyata Shandy Shandy Shandy".<4>
Well, we've not finished yet. We're not going to read it all, or in order, a bit like the last year's on and off dipping into Sterne's original work.
And we do appreciate a limited edition (200 copies). Snooty ravens, rather than sooty ravens?
<1>Why the ravens like Steve Bell: (Not because of John Major's underpants!
) Lol and Lal, the two-headed Cumbrian sheep, dating from the mid-eighties, were really what did it for us.
<2>What the ravens don't like about Steve Bell: his move into colour in The Guardian Online. The impact's lost. Unlike Ralph Steadman
, whose violent use of colour is the making of his drawings.
<3> No page numbers!
<4> Must find our copy and have a re-read.