Saturday, April 12, 2008


I've been reading woodcut novels lately (many of which were given to me as birthday gifts by regular blog-reader and dear friend JOHN HERTEL), and if you're a comics fan, I highly recommend you pick up a few as well. The precursor to the modern graphic novel, most of these wordless books were completed between the first and second world wars. While they range from emotionally potent to downright corny, on the whole they show a generous amount of inventiveness.
Lynd Ward's work is probably the most famous of the woodcut novelists, and I've read a few of his books, GOD'S MAN, MADMAN'S DRUM and a couple of others, but while I marvel at his technical facility as a draftsman, I find his stories somewhat overwrought, simplistic and occasionally hard to follow.
Personally, I much prefer the work of Frans Masareel. His novels like THE CITY, PASSIONATE JOURNEY and THE SUN read much more like poetry, or even a visualization of music, rather than as prose. I love reading his work--I've never read anything like it before.
His work, along with Ward's, is reprinted in GRAPHIC WITNESS, a compilation of some of the best woodcut novels. Also reprinted in the book are novels by Giacomo Patri (the exceptional WHITE COLLAR) and Laurence Hyde (SOUTHERN CROSS). 
SOUTHERN CROSS has also been reprinted in the past year by Drawn and Quarterly in quite a beautiful edition, and it's well worth getting. Like Ward, Hyde attempts to tell a complex and structured story, and while it's operatic in its tone, it actually succeeds in being emotionally potent.  I've found his work, and particularly the work of Masareel to be quite inspiring.


Anonymous said...

very cool. thanks!

dberona said...

Nice to see your interest in wordless books and woodcut novels. You will enjoy my book, Wordless Books, The Original Graphic Novels, which is just out from Abrams.

If you are going to attend the New York ComicCon, I'll be signing copies on Saturday, April 19 from 12-12:30 at the Abrams booth #1825.

Lovelace said...

I still have my copy of God's Man from about 30 years ago. That book always fascinated & disturbed me (the couple of times I waded through it). Didn't he go mad?

dberona said...

Lynd Ward created five more woodless books after Gods' Man, from 1929-1937. Lynd Ward died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1985 and worked the last years of his life on a woodcut novel published in 2001 in a small edition called Lynd Ward's last, unfinished, wordless novel