Monday, October 22, 2012

JAMES JOYCE: THE CATS OF COPENHAGEN

BACK IN FEBRUARY, my post on James Joyce's picture book The Cat and the Devil went slightly viral when it was announced that a small Irish publisher would be publishing a new picture book by Joyce entitled The Cats of Copenhagen. The circumstances around this event were slightly controversial (refer back to the original post), so it was unclear if the book would ever be available to the general public at an affordable price. Just last week, Scribner published an American edition, which can be found in stores now.

Unlike The Cat and the Devil, there isn't a strong narrative in The Cats of Copenhagen. It's comprised mainly of absurd observations about cats and policemen and crossing streets. Its tone is somewhere between Ruth Krauss's A Hole is to Dig and the works of Edward Gorey. Casey Sorrow's single color line illustrations resonate with the spare text so that each page is a whole idea, the words and art almost a single lexical unit. In short, it's a wonderful book. But I haven't tested it out on any kids yet.

UPDATE: Ithys Press, the original publisher of The Cats of Copenhagen asked me to mention the work of typographer Michael Caine, who hand set the type for the book. From Anastasia Herbert at Ithys: "That extraordinary setting was all done by hand with lead and wooden type from rare, antique founts in his collection." To see more on Michael Caine see Ithys Press's blog here.

All images are copyrighted © and owned by their respective holders.

2 comments:

  1. I agree entirely that “page is a whole idea, the words and art almost a single lexical unit.” That expressive interplay of word and image is the design work of the typographer Michael Caine – a consumate book artist – who, most unfortunately, was left off the credits on the Scribner edition. The text itself is Joyce at his most Swiftian. Read in this light, one imagines Joyce in Copenhagen as akin to the voyager, Gulliver in the land of the (rational, intelligent) Houyhnhnms and the (slothful) Yahoos. In this tiny text, Joyce comments on fascism, even in its guise as communism. Against the tyranny of self-seeking bureaucracy, Joyce counterpoints natural simplicity, openness and rationality.

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