Marc Simont: The Beautiful Planet: Ours to Lose

978-1935212-09-6 – Easton Studio Press – Paperback – $15.00

The Beautiful Planet: Ours To Lose is an impassioned anti-war cartoon book by one of America’s foremost illustrators. Marc Simont’s drawings, taken from five decades of editorial cartooning, capture the essence of a brooding Nixon, a smiling Reagan, a bland Bush One, and a dumbfounded Bush Two as they prosecute their wars. Simont’s fierce portrayals of the Military-Industrial Complex are intimately linked to his passionate indignity on behalf of all civilians, soldiers, and prisoners who have suffered.

Continually struck by the majesty of the planet as it floats in space like a jewel, Simont asks, will it survive?

 Born in Paris in 1915 to Catalonian parents (his father was himself a world renowned illustrator), Marc Simont spent his childhood in France, Spain and finally the United States, where he settled in 1934. After serving time in the U.S. Army during World War II, Simont went on to illustrate over a hundred books working with a wide range of authors, including Margaret Wise Brown, Red Smith, and James Thurber.  Simont received the Caldecott Medal in 1957 for his illustrations to A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry and a Caldecott Honor in 1950 for The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss.

 He is the author/illustrator of seven books, most recently The Stray Dog (2001), which won yet another Caldecott Honor, was chosen by The New York Times as one of the ten best illustrated books of the year, became an ALA Notable Children’s Book and received the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book Award.

Internationally acclaimed for its grace, humor and beauty, Marc Simont’s art is in collections as far afield as the Kijo Picture Book Museum in Japan.  He was chosen as the 1997 Illustrator of the Year in his native Catalonia and received the Hunter College James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism in 2008.

Interviewing Marc about this terrific book was a special occasion for me.  I love the illustrations he has done for so many exceptional children’s books, many of which I know well, having read them to my own children.   I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with him in producing The Beautiful Planet, which collects the pithy, humane and piercing political cartoons he has been making and publishing in The Lakeville Journal since the 1940′s.  In this conversation, we talked about his early life, coming to America, his early work as an illustrator, his many well known collaborators, and of course his political cartoons that are collected here in this, his newest book. Marc’s approach is never to attack, but always to expose fallibility.  He is a wonderful man whose work is marked by a love for humanity and an appreciation for actual human beings; he is a true humanist and a brilliant artist.

Douglas Gayeton – Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town

November 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Art and Photography, Non-Fiction

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978-1-59962-072-5 – Hardcover – Welcome Books – $50.00

If you love beautiful books, Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town by Douglas Gayeton will be irresistible.  Gayeton is a film maker who ended up living in a small town in Tuscany that his wife (at that time) was from.  When she left him, he stayed.  He learned to speak Italian, and fell in love with the people, the place, and the pace of a community that was completely foreign to him and his American way of being.  As he told me in this interview, as a film maker, he is used to telling stories.  When he began to take photographs, thousands of them, the only way he could make sense of them was to create a narrative from them.

Which he did, by writing notes on the actual photographs, and also by layering multiple shots of the same scene over time.  The effect of the images and words here is mesmerizing.  And of course the representation of these people, their way of living, and the places they inhabit embody the stories Gayeton tells here.

This is both a personal narrative and one that – as great art must do – transcends and transforms the specific experiences portrayed.  Gayeton takes us on his journey to help us understand ourselves through an experience of others, just as he did.  I view these photographs and read the writing on them (notes, anecdotes, recipes, and many facts about Tuscany and Tuscan life), and find myself transported – beyond the “real” places he pictures to an almost spiritual state of being that is based in the imagination and soul of place.  “Slow” living is something all of us who are seeking meaning need to experience, Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town is a doorway that will help us enter that experience.  Welcome Books deserves a lot of credit for making this spectacular book.

DOUGLAS GAYETON is a filmmaker, photographer, and writer. His images are held in a number of influential museum and private collections around the world, and have been featured in numerous print and online media, such as Time Magazine. Since the early 90s he has created award-winning work at the boundaries of traditional and converging media for AOL, MSN, MTV, Yahoo, Fox, Vivendi, Sony, Viacom, Sega, Intel, National Geographic, PBS, Warner Bros., Columbia, and Virgin Records. Recent projects include LOST IN ITALY, a 26 episode interstitial TV series Gayeton created, directed, and shot for Fine Living, and A SECOND LIFE ODYSSEY for HBO, the first documentary shot inside a virtual world.

Doug Gayeton is also a terrific interviewee, who tells his story particularly well.