Yesterday when I was browsing at the library I came across this 1938 chapter book by William Pène du Bois. The author’s Twenty-One Balloons is one of my all-time favorites but I had never read (or even heard of) The Three Policemen. So of course I had to take a look.
The book’s action takes place on a wealthy, top-secret tropical island where the inhabitants all live leisurely, worry-free lives (clearly one of du Bois’s favorite themes) until someone robs them of their fishing nets. The story is charming but the real knockouts are the illustrations, which are refined, sophisticated and whimsical, with gorgeous use of color. The setting, the clothing, the mustaches—everything is as mannered as in an Ernst Lubitsch film. Or a Wes Anderson movie.And when you turn to the back endpapers of the book, you see THIS! (Click on image below to zoom.)
Doesn’t it remind you of this shot from The Life Aquatic?Yes, yes—critics have pointed out that Anderson’s iconic cutaway dollhouse shot has its progenitors in Godard’s 1972 Tout va bien and even Jerry Lewis’s 1961 film The Ladies Man. But come on. The Du Bois illustration is also of a ship! (Specifically, a ship in the shape of a sea serpent.) To take things further, I would argue that Eric Chase Anderson‘s style of illustration (Eric is Wes’s brother and close collaborator) owes a great debt to William Pène du Bois in everything from his color palette to his obsession with diagrams.
And we all know how much Wes loves Roald Dahl, so for him to also be a fan of William Pène du Bois isn’t such a stretch. Is it just me?
Like most people I know, the first time I ever heard of the internet meme Slender Man was a few weeks ago when the news story broke about the two 12-year-old girls in Wisconsin who stabbed their friend to please the fictional character. The demonic Slender Man is said to be tall, thin, faceless and dressed in a black suit. Artists have rendered him in many different ways.
But today when I was looking through The Phantom Tollbooth, I was jolted by this. Remember him?
The Terrible Trivium!
“He was beautifully dressed in a dark suit with a well-pressed shirt and tie. His shoes were polished, his nails were clean, his hat was well brushed, and a white handkerchief adorned his breast pocket. But his expression was somewhat blank. In fact, it was completely blank, for he had neither eyes, nose, nor mouth.”
Athough Tollbooth is not a scary book by any stretch of the imagination, this guy haunted me for years. And I wonder if Jules Feiffer’s drawing was the image my mind subconsciously triggered when I first heard about Slender Man. Is it just me?
[If this post is leaving a grim taste in your mouth, I apologize. Here’s a more pleasant Phantom Tollbooth-related realization to linger on.]
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Amelia Bedelia, the bumbling, literal-minded housekeeper whose exceptional baked goods constantly save her from getting canned. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Amelia character (she’s a little too much of a Gilligan, if you know what I mean) but I’ve always admired her uniform.
If Zooey Deschanel ever does take on the role of Amelia [see genius BookRiot post], this Chanel look has her name all over it.
Chanel RTW – Fall 2009
I was thinking about The Phantom Tollbooth today after seeing the trailer for the upcoming documentary about the book (which by the way looks awesome). I was looking at the Jules Feiffer illustrations and when I came to the portrait of the waifish, lank-haired princess duo Rhyme and Reason in their drapey slipdresses …
they reminded me of these two!
Linda Evangelista and Kristen McMenamy photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue (October 1992)
Every time I get to this scene in William Steig’s The Amazing Bone — for my money, it’s the most disturbing moment in the book, even worse than when the villanous fox appears —
I always think of the bizarre series of paintings (by Mexican artist Miguel Calderón) hanging on Eli Cash’s walls in The Royal Tennenbaums. I can’t help it — it’s as if William Steig and Wes Anderson are speaking to one another.
Is it just me? Another illo from The Amazing Bone:
And Owen Wilson chilling in front of Calderon’s Bad Route, which I remember made me burst out laughing in the theater.
To be fair, Kurt Andersen did an interview with Wes and Miguel on his radio show where they discussed the paintings in the film and nobody mentioned any talking bones. But still.