Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Artist's Block Book

The Last Resort
written by J. Patrick Lewis
illustrated by Roberto Innocenti
Creative Editions, 2002
ISBN: 1-56846-172-0

I read this book twice. I know that if I read it 3 or 4 more times I’d find things I didn’t see the first few times. This is a picture book. What I found interesting is that the illustrator’s name was listed first. In fact, the illustrator’s name was almost as large as the title, so I wondered if it was part of the title. I had to look at the Library of Congress information (I’m sure there’s another scientific name for this, but I don’t know what it is ) to figure out who was the author and who was the illustrator.

The illustrations are very pivotal to this book. It has heavier text than many picture books, but the illustrators—often several to a page—tell much of the story. In fact the format reminded me somewhat of a graphic novel where you have several pictures and text to read per page and both are very important to your understanding of the story.

It’s the story of an artist who has lost his imagination and he goes on a trip to try to get out of his “artist’s block”. His car (a red Renault to be exact) leads him to a seaside hotel where other guests are also trying to find themselves again. A man with a pegleg, a young fisherboy, a sick young woman, a writer, a cowboy, a policeman, a pilot, and a Georgian gentleman all have parts in this magical hotel.

The pictures which give important details are matched with J. Patrick Lewis’ poetic prose. He describes the avenue he travels to the hotel as “a lane as long as loneliness, past a cliff beyond forgetting, through a spider-lightning night.” (p. 9)

There is an afterward in the book that explains the literary references to each of the characters in the book, many of which are characters that readers may not have heard of before. Nonetheless, it makes the tale of these characters even more enchanting as they go to the place of The Last Resort only to find their way out and inspired about what lies ahead.

If you have ever suffered from writer's block (or artist's block) and tried to find your way out, this book would appeal to you.

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