12.4.08

The Simple and the Profound

Wandering around (as I do), I found Shaun Tan's site online. Many people now know the Australian author's work because of the success of The Arrival but he's been around for awhile, doing all sorts of interesting stuff. Tan and I share a publisher, and on his site he makes particular note of the Simply Read edition of his book The Rabbits.

Here's an excerpt from an interesting essay available here:

The idea of a picture book, as a literary art form, carries a number of tacit assumptions: picture books are quite large, colourful, easy to read and very simple in their storyline and structure, not very long and (most significantly) produced exclusively for a certain audience, namely children, especially of the younger variety. Picture books are generally put on the shelves of bookstores, libraries, lounge rooms and bedrooms for young children, where they apparently belong. Picture books are synonymous with Children’s Literature. But is this is a necessary condition of the art form itself? Or is it just a cultural convention, more to do with existing expectations, marketing prejudices and literary discourse?

The simplicity of a picture book in terms of narrative structure, visual appeal and often fable-like brevity might seem to suggest that it is indeed ideally suited to a juvenile readership. It’s about showing and telling, a window for learning to ‘read’ in a broad sense, exploring relationships between words, pictures and the world we experience every day. But is this an activity that ends with childhood, when at some point we are sufficiently qualified to graduate from one medium to another? Simplicity certainly does not exclude sophistication or complexity; we inherently know that the truth is otherwise. “Art,” as Einstein reminds us, “is the expression of the most profound thoughts in the simplest way.”


And here's an image from The Rabbits:

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