The Elephant Man as Reality T.V.

Originally published at Yunchtime. You can comment here or there.

A review of  The Blind Men and the Elephant   by Russell M. Griffin

You would think that a novel investigating the inner life of a freak — indeed, the freak of freaks: Elephant Man — would be grim, depressing, and bleak.  You would think that the transformation of one’s body into something hideous and grotesque as a terrible ordeal.  Moreover the psychological pressure of being an actual monster in physical form should be a topic almost unbearable to explore.  And yet, in this novel, The Blind Men and the Elephant, Russell M. Griffin explores all of these difficult ideas and emotions, he pokes them with needles and rubs salt on them over and over again… but strangely enough, he achieves an ethereal, almost philosophical understanding of the subject in the end, and instead of weeping with saccharine sympathy the reader is left pondering moral issues, and laughing bitterly at human weakness.

It helps that the book is framed as a social commentary and a bitter satire on the hopeless losers of the small town, Butler, Massachusetts.  The protagonist Durwood Leffingwell is a washed up weatherman at a low budget local t.v. station, who smokes dope with the cameraman, and watches with seeming disinterest as his marriage deteriorates.  The cheapness and selfishness of the cast of characters is obvious from the opening lines, evoked with deft jabs and devastating clarity.

The raw comedy of this book is demonstrated in the first glimpse of Leffingwell’s job, when he is rousted out of bed to answer a phone call from his boss, Trammel, down at the t.v. station:

“I’m trying to cope.  Cope with a little prob we’ve got down on this end.”

Leffingwell took a deep breath and let go of his day off.  “Shoot.”

“It’s about our live coverage of the parade today.”

“Just about to tune in and watch,” Leffingwell lied.

“You know it’s the biggest thing we’ve done.  We’ve got thousands tied up in telephone line rental and the remote van and the pro switchers from Boston… I mean, Leffingwell, this is a live remote!  This is the big time! This is like ABC doing the Olympics!”  Trammel paused, letting the grandeur of it sink in.  “That’s why I was just sick when I got the call from St. Joe’s just now.”

“The hospital?  Oberon didn’t slash her wrists again, did she?

“No, it’s Tanker Hackett.  He’s in traction.”


“They totaled Curt’s VW Rabbit.”

“Curt too? Is he all right?”

“Yeah, but his Private Cusp suit’s just a lot of fiberglass tooth crumbs all over Route 111-A.  Leffingwell, Sergeant Smile and Private Cusp were supposed to attract kiddie viewers.  We’ve got no moppet interest.  WE’RE ABOUT TO SEE THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS GO DOWN THE TUBE!”

Leffingwell was silent, suspecting where Trammel was headed. Ever since Leffingwell’s promotion to weatherman on the Ten O’Clock News, he’d been supplementing his $97.50 a week take-home by helping out on Sergeant Smile and the Tooth Brigade as the mute end of the many-toothed Mr. Laffy the Horse.

And it all just gets worse from there.   Each line, which seems like a throw-away gag, actually gets tied into the plot during the course of the book.   Griffin manages to escoriate the whole of American society, revealing it’s raw World Weekly News-fed underbelly.

In the course of the book, Leffingwell gets involved with the Elephant Man, picking up from the freak show pimp who dumped him unceremoniously in Butler, Mass, and plays out his own greed and cynicism against a back-drop of grasping locals, corrupt judges, self-promoting minor poets, and the various phony personalities of the t.v. station.

There are deep moments of self-reflection from the Elephant Man, who is utterly disconnected with human society, and who painfully reconstructs his past, trying to understand his origins and the meaning for his life on earth.

The facetious musings of a theologian, and the intrusion of mysterious pursuers wearing sunglasses, point to a horrible truth which is revealed to all eventually.   What makes this novel significant, and not just a slap-stick comedy, is the way in which each of the characters hides and attempts to reconstruct their understanding of what the Elephant Man really is.

For the theologian, the Virgin birth (which is simultaneously a miracle and an abomination) is too much for his mind to handle and he snaps.  For Leffingwell, the truth becomes a moral question of whether he will continue to hurt and exploit someone who has done him no harm. And for Mother Superior, what good does it do to finally know with certainty that the one child who needed her the most was the one she abandoned?  As she wanders through the wreckage of her life’s work, who was saved?  Was anyone really even helped?

As for the Elephant Man himself, the truth and catharsis it brings is just another punishment, like Antoine Doinel in The 400 Blows he is left walking in the surf and turning around to face the emptiness of a Universe without meaning or mercy.

In the Elephant Man’s case, he is not on the beach, but in a parking lot after having been acquitted of a false charge in court.   But his regained freedom is too little and too late to save him from the reality of his own Being.

Even Leffingwell, who discovers his own compassion too late in the game, only succeeds in raising his protest to the level of being a nuisance to the powers that be.  With his memory erased, and all the knowing parties either dead, missing, or gone mad, there is no epitaph for the Elephant Man’s true nature.

You’d think all of this is terribly sad, but strangely enough you will spend more time roaring with laughter at this book, then you will stifling back tears.  One drawback, which I should mention, is that the women in the book are generally grasping, selfish, and confused, and seem to randomly focus their affections on men in the story with a sense of pointlessness and low self esteem.   You could fault Griffin on this, and say it is somewhat sexist.  On the other hand, if you look at the whole story, in my view, the male characters are equally self-centered, empty, and blinded by egotism.  I think it is an equal opportunity castigation of American society.

There are moments in the plot where humanity shines through, which is why I would recommend it.  When Leffingwell has mindlessly set up a porno film production involving the Elephant Man as a million dollar idea it is perfectly reflected by the cameraman Stackpole who realizes with disgust what is going on.

“Leff, my man,” said Stackpole, “I just cut myself out.” He handed Leffingwell the massive camera.  “You do anything you want to from here on, but you do it without me.”

“But why, Stackpole?” Leffingwell said feverishly.

Why?  It’s inhuman,” Stackpole said.  “The road back to the human race is through this door.”

Leffingwell was suddenly alone, the heavy camera tugging at his arm.  His face burned.  He hated himself.

And in these moments of realization, in the midst of wicked satire, this book proves itself worthy of the title.

Rankled into Action, 2017

Originally published at Yunchtime. You can comment here or there.

Happy New Year to all living beings!   Live long and prosper.

It’s been a troublesome and unpredictable 2016 — not that the clump of 365 consecutive days has any particular significance, but since we measure our strangeness in trips around the sun, let’s just say it: 2016 was a bloody pain in the arse.

Too many good people are gone, and too many rotten ones are left.   The lists of inspiring people who passed away is just too long.  When you think about it, what the hell kind of Universe takes away Anton Yelchin at age 27, and yet provides a second heart to keep an evil bastard like Dick Cheney going?

What a seriously messed up agency is responsible for this kind of sadistic continuum?  That is:   if you are going to attribute agency to a Mad Universe.  But what we can observe of our entire cosmos is only an agglomeration of dissipating thermodynamic energy.   On the other hand, if you are an atheist or a pantheist, you need not worry about a Mad or Malevolent Universe.   Lucky day!   Things just are the way they are, and no evil deity is punishing you.   Even luckier for the pantheist, I should say:  it’s all happening, it’s all real, and it’s all blessed by the Great Spirit.

Well, count me lucky!   I became a pantheist at some point in the summer haze of the 1960s.   The rocks and stones, the waters flowing, the rushing air that sustains us, that is the good stuff!  We need to work on the sacred water, air, earth; sustainable soils and organic farms forever.

There really is no Planet B.   Screwing up our planet and running away, like bad campers evacuating a trash-strewn latrine is not an option.   Let’s calm down and focus.   Terra is not a distant dream.  It’s right here and we can save it.

Victory at Standing Rock

Originally published at Yunchtime. You can comment here or there.

Yesterday we were notified that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not grant the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the Dakota Access pipeline. Instead, they will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement regarding alternative routes for the pipeline. This action strongly vindicates what the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been saying all along – that we all have a responsibility to protect our waters for future generations.

This is an historic moment. For centuries, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and tribes across the country, have faced fundamental injustice at the hands of the federal government – which time and again took our lands and tried to destroy our way of life. Our Treaties and our human rights were ignored, our interests in protecting lands and waters were considered unimportant, and our voices were not heard.

It was this shared history that led Tribes to come together as never before to seek the protection of our waters against the threat of the Dakota Access pipeline. With peace and prayer, indigenous people from hundreds of Tribes said: our future is too important. We can no longer be ignored. The goal was to protect these sacred waters, and to do so in the name of our children.

And, with yesterday’s decision, it is clear that our voices have at long last been heard.

Yesterday’s decision demonstrates that, despite all the challenges that Tribes face and all of the terrible wrongs the federal government has committed in dealing with us over the years, justice for Indian people still remains possible. My thanks to the Obama Administration, and particularly to Assistant Secretary Darcy, for upholding the law and doing the right thing.

Yesterday’s decision belongs in large measure to the thousands of courageous people who put their lives on hold to stand with Standing Rock in support of a basic principle — that water is life. At Standing Rock, our youth played an important role in spreading our message and I am so proud of what they have been able to accomplish.

But Standing Rock could not have come this far alone. Hundreds of tribes came together in a display of tribal unity not seen in hundreds of years. And many thousands of indigenous people from around the world have prayed with us and made us stronger. I am grateful to each of you. And, as we turn a page with yesterday’s decision, I look forward to working with many of you as you return to your home communities to protect your lands and waters, and the sovereignty of your tribes.

My thanks to all of our allies, here and around the world, each of whom contributed to this effort. I want to give a special mention to the veterans who have come to Standing Rock in recent days. I am sure that the strength of your message in support of Standing Rock, and the rights of the Water Protectors, had a powerful impact as the Army made its decision. I appreciate all you have done.

While today is a great day, there is still much that needs to be done to protect Tribal rights and ensure justice for indigenous people everywhere. Using peace and prayer as our guideposts, and with the teachings of our elders and with inspiration from our youth, I believe there is much we can accomplish for the future.

Dave Archambault, II, Chairman
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

[via Standing Rock Action Network, 5 Dec 2016 9:00am  EST]

Placing Names: it is a thing!

Originally published at Yunchtime. You can comment here or there.

Well, about three years and a field of poppies later, the combined efforts of a zillion scholars have arrived on my desk in a physical manifestation of printed paper, green bindings, and a snappy little dark red trident logo! Placing Names is a thing! They actually printed it and sent it to all us editors and authors.

Pretty neat.

Who would have imagined the backwater field of historical toponyms would find newfound relevance in a world of interconnected data?  But then again, since many things of significance are named, and since they exist in both time and three-dimensional space, changing form as they ramble across hill and dale…

why shouldn’t the logic of tracing the history of place names serve as a template for understanding the mystery of these transmutations?

How many other antiquarian, fuss-budget compilations of old named things tried to tackle the thorny logic of temporal, geographic, and semantic attributes that all change independently, and have a variable number of relationships?   Sure, why not?

Let’s celebrate the launch of this strange tome, and raise a glass to the pirates who sailed the seven seas!

Fifteen men on dead man’s chest

yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum

drink and the devil be done for the rest

yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum!

Many thanks to my co-editors and co-authors.  And be sure to rush out and buy a copy right now!

Green Chili Jones: Solved

Originally published at Yunchtime. You can comment here or there.

So what is it with New Mexico green chilis? Is it something in the soil? Something in the dusty valleys scorched by the desert sun where even lizards fear to crawl and only the toughest, gnarliest lifeforms can eke out an existence, raving into the blue-black sky with a fierce scream of defiance:  Universe, que haces, Universe!

Sure, there is a lightness of being under the enchanted sky, and a fatalistic attitude of total abandon, defiance, and belligerence that makes New Mexico what it is. That spirit thrives in those green chilis. They are like the super-energy pills eaten by Underdog, no kidding.

Now most people on the East coast can get their chilis in a jar, or a can, or flash-frozen and flown to them by next day Fedex… but normal home-grown New Mexicans are a sort of funky gang.  We just want a paper bag of chilis with the stems on so that we can roast and peel ’em at home.  We even watch the local news (KOAT-TV) to see what is going on in the big city — Albuquerque — and it’s daily batch of grisly murders, head-on car wrecks, drug-crazed robberies, car chases, shoot-outs, and the occasional “human-interest” story: you know, like a retired firefighter giving some pre-schoolers karate lessons, or some shit like that.

Thus, it should come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that I already KNEW the green chili season was early this year! There was a report in July that chilis were almost ready to harvest, so I had my eyes peeled!

Sure enough Sophia and I spotted a few bins of the gorgeous Hatch green chilis last weekend at Whole Foods. We snapped up about half of them, which turned out to be eight pounds. Eight gorgeous pounds of fresh green chilis straight off the truck from Nuevo Mexico. What could be better?

We washed them and started lining them up on roasting pans:

fresh chilis ready to roast

fresh chilis ready to roast

After charring the skins in the broiler, we tossed them to cool in a bowl.

nicely charred

nicely charred

Then we start lining them up on a cutting board, just to look at em all before wrapping them.

Once they are cooled off, we double wrap piles of six chilis in plastic wrap bundles.

They can be frozen, and after thawing and peeling off the skins, cooked up in meal sized batches any time!

The first batch was so chewy and fresh! I had about 1/6 of the batch left over and was able to make a New Mexico style wet burrito after getting one to take out from La Victoria taqueria.

This is the life!

nicely charred

Fallout from Quincy Adams: Readercon 2016

Originally published at Yunchtime. You can comment here or there.

It’s strange to think about the fun-fest of Readercon — which it always turns out to be — as a hotbed of controversy where ripples of fallout will radiate outward for weeks and months after the event. On the other hand, science fiction fandom is a sort of canary in the coal mine of society at large. The feuds and alignments and banishments and rapprochements that swirl around fandom, punctuated by mass scrimmage events (also known as cons), are now inextricably linked to the culture wars raging around us.

It wasn’t always this way. Long ago, in never never land, cons were communal freak-outs held by like-minded escapists as a sort of exhibitionist rebellion against the bleakness of mundane culture. A con was where your propellor beanie, flowing cape, Vulcan ears, and purple velvet bag-of-holding concealing a pint of scumble were perfectly normal, and you were surrounded by fellow fen celebrating the freedom to be weird.

Read the rest of this entry »

Redemption Song

Originally published at Yunchtime. You can comment here or there.

Andreis Peregudovs being led to find the stolen stash of money.

Pondering the depths of guilt and despair, the criminal is led to the scene of a crime.  His handlers are not brutal, they too are subdued; as if ashamed themselves, and feeling the general shame of a greedy act.  Well, it was a robbery — which is wrong — but it was not murder or assault or physically violent.  It was an intellectual job, a computerized heist, involving hackers and exploits that emptied the contents of ATM machines into the hands of a well-organized gang.   The thieves, apparently, had been active for some time.  Wreaking their computerized havoc on the banks of Europe and America almost with impunity, they suddenly fell into a trap on the yam-shaped island.

And now, one of the ring-leaders, being led in handcuffs and muddy slippers down the rain-streaked hillside, bows his head.  He looks penitent.   He had asked his captors if there was a possibility of the death penalty.  His white plastic rain poncho is framed by the dripping yellow ponchos of the unarmed policemen, as they try not to slip on the steep muddy path.   Somewhere along the trail, a filthy old duffel bag, bursting with stacks of 100 NT$ bills, awaited them.

This scene, at once so droll and unrehearsed, captured in the midst of the investigation process, has a strangely beautiful, glowing, transcendence to it.   For some reason, when I saw the form of the suspect, hands bound, his long sinewy body twisting slightly and lost in deep meditation on his own sins, I suddenly thought of the paintings of El Greco.   Those giant lush canvases, full of figures interacting in various angular poses, which decompose into brightly contrasting zones of color, are imbued with El Greco’s heavy Catholocism, and scenes of melancholy; like The Disrobing of Christ.

The Disrobing of Christ, El Greco (1579)

What an odd thought, really.   It is not that I sympathize with the criminal so much as respect the care and sense of calm which the police have in dealing with the matter.  All of this captured in the lens and splashed in a vertical composition of slow and moody actions built out of rich flat color shapes.   This is a great photo.  If nothing else, it brings me to the rainy and muddy steps in the forest where the bag of money was dumped.   It puts me exactly into the scene, and into the mood.  How will it end?   In some sordid courtroom anti-climax.  Sure.  Doesn’t it always?


It’s Towel Day: Let your freak flag fly!

Originally published at Yunchtime. You can comment here or there.

Yes, it’s towel day!   And I wore my official Miffy towel, that I bought at Watsons on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong many years ago.   It’s a little thread-bare, but when you are roughing it across the galaxy, struggling to survive against merciless hordes of alien creatures, it’s good to have a farcical bunny on your side!

As I walked across Harvard Yard, letting my freak flag fly proudly in the morning breeze, I may have been a little out of tune with the milling crowds of alumni and graduates in their black robes and crimson purple scarves.   Sure, they will celebrate their commencement tomorrow, and go on to take up their places as the elite rulers of the world… but I am celebrating the life of Douglas Adams! — that great surrealist and comedic philosopher — and this old Miffy towel is a good enough symbol for me.

Aloha, compadres!  Don’t panic.

Agit-prop 2016: Democratic Socialism Wants You

Originally published at Yunchtime. You can comment here or there.

Just before the New York primary I noticed this sign posted on the Quincy Street billboard in Harvard Yard.   This is directly across the street from entrance to the Harvard Art Museum, at the gate between Philosophy, Robinson and Sever Halls.   It is a fairly good traffic spot in the mornings.

Whoever posted this has my kudos!   It’s actually a pretty funny mash-up of the “Hide ya kids, hide yo wife” meme with the idiotic fear-mongering that has been going on about Bernie Sanders and the menace of “democratic socialism.”   Making use of an old-fashioned image of the iconic Russian bear attacking and slavering on top of prone Uncle Sam is rather ridiculous…  Bernie’s political life and positions have nothing to do with Russia or with Russia’s state planned socialism.   Indeed, if Americans had any sense of reality whatsoever, they would realize that entire purpose of our Federal government and its institutions is socialist in nature.   Assuming democracy actually exists here in the USA — which is seriously in doubt after the recent debacle in Las Vegas has revealed — then it is most certainly democratic socialism to begin with.   Really, we could only be so lucky as to adopt the policies discussed by Michael Moore in Where to Invade Next, and be slightly more in tune with the times in order to enjoy the advantages that democratic social policies provide.

Of course, the “Wants You” slogan predicates the idea that this strange and monstrous thing — this democratic socialism thing — is simultaneously going to destroy your peace and security (thus Hide Ya Kids, Hide Ya Wife), and  at the same time recruit you to join it.   How insidious!   The thing you fear will propagandize you into joining it.   Pretty amusing!   This is clearly a fun bit of agit-prop, deliberately messing with our “normal” brainwashing program, that is beamed at us 24 hours a day.   Thanks for that chuckle, hermano!   And I liked the silk-screening too.   More of this!

The Sleek and Memorable Art of A. J. Donnell

Originally published at Yunchtime. You can comment here or there.

In another post (about blood moons and werewolves) I had occasion to examine the various cover paintings for Jack Williamson’s great novel, Darker Than You Think.   In addition to Edd Cartier’s black and white illustration, Jeff Jones’ transmogrification of tigers and snakes, and David G. Klein’s rather literalist take on the eros and violence in the book, I was strangely charmed by the cover painting done by A. J. Donnell.

Who was A. J. Donnell, I wondered?

It turns out that I couldn’t dig up much info on him.   Andrew Julian Donnell seems to have served as a Staff Sergeant in WWII, according to the gravestone in Fort Scott, Bourbon County, Kansas, which gives his dates as 1905 to 1991.   The ISFDB indicates that he was born in Kansas City, about 90 miles north of where he was buried.    After his stint in WWII, A. J. Donnell was living in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he was an artist working for the Glidden Paint Company.   According to Lloyd Arthur Esbach’s account of how he founded the Fantasy Press, Donnell was one of the first four investors, who teamed up to put in $500 each in order to launch the company.

As Esbach tells it, he was kicking the idea around with his co-worker, G. H. MacGregor, who said:  “We could get Donnell here”—the artist who was in the room at the time—“and he could do the illustrating. Maybe add Leman Houck—he’s a bookkeeper—and with each of us putting in five hundred we’d be on our way.”    (see “The Fantasy Press Story”  published in Earl Kemp’s eI27, Aug 2006)

But hardly anything else is known about the artist.

The Science Fiction Encyclopedia provides a thoughtful reflection on his art.

Donnell’s covers tended to emphasize simply drawn designs, but these often seemed perfectly appropriate for the material; his stark, sometimes monochromatic renderings of spacecraft for the covers for Smith’s Space Operas, for example, capture the unpolished energy of this work much better than later, more sophisticated artwork. Also, although Robert Weinberg reports that Donnell had little attachment to sf, he apparently read the books he illustrated with unusual care, as indicated by his cover for Heinlein’s Beyond This Horizon, since its image of a boy playing with sand inside an hourglass perfectly captures the novel’s central theme:  a long effort to craft a superior human being through generations of careful breeding. Similarly, his arresting cover for Stanley G Weinbaum’s A Martian Odyssey and Others, showing a masked Egyptian bowing toward a birdlike Martian, cleverly illustrates Donnell’s awareness of the theory expressed in Weinbaum’s “Valley of Dreams”,  that Martians like his Tweel had visited ancient Egypt to be received as gods.

(see SFE A. J. Donnell)

Robert Weinberg, in his Biographical Dictionary comments that Donnell was the staff artist for The Whilhelm Ambassador, whatever that was.   I found a 1939 copyright entry for a periodical called “Wilhelm ambassador,” so I suppose that was it.   But, apparently whatever Donnell created for that publication is long forgotten.

Not the case for his science fiction art, which is sleek, polished, and memorable.   If the cover for Stanley Weinbaum’s The Black Flame doesn’t knock your socks off, then I can’t help you!

Since Donnell was both the art director and illustrator for the early Fantasy Press covers, he was designing the covers, lettering them, and probably setting up the color separations as well.   His simple and yet effective use of the cover designs — in this case with red letters floating over a woman’s towering (and sparkling!) coiffure —   is typically something that would have artist and art director strangling each other over an office desk.  But here, on the soft green background, it just works!

You can see where he was going with the original illustration, contrasting the soft gradient of the skin tones that had a hint of warmth, against the vivid strokes of black india ink swirling through the woman’s hair.   Adding the sparkling white stars to soften the crisp lines, also showed off Donnell’s technical skill as an illustrator.

The ravages of war in space are neatly depicted in Donnell’s painting for Triplanetary, first book in Doc Smith’s Lensman series.    Here the use of airbrush, oil, and hand-painted lettering is simply fantastic.  The smooth cylinders of the spaceships are tumbling through the sky like so many compressed air tanks, some of them bursting into flames or burnt into useless chunks of smoldering metal.   This band of destruction is emanating from a mandala-like shape hanging in the sky — apparently the Nevians spaceship unleashing their death ray that melts all it touches into an allotropic iron plasma.  There is an exceptional subtlety in the way Donnell has used a simple, blurry geometric shape to represent the superior alien race.

Once again, the boldness with which Donnell framed the colorless death ray against a bright blue sky, and the way he slashed across the action with a boldly outlined red title demonstrates what an artist is willing to do when focused on the the impact of the complete design, rather than just the painting.

Another curiosity, is Donnell’s unused cover design for First Lensman.   In this cover, the lens — a device that super-amplifies the mental powers of the wearer — looks like a fancy wristwatch, with a luxurious band.  The anonymous face, floating in space behind the lens, and the trickles of stars floating around it look more like bubbles in water than stars.  Clearly this design was not going to make for a stunning cover.   The lettering was pretty neat, though!

It’s worth noting the cover that Donnell painted for Sinister Barrier.   As mentioned in the SFE article, Donnell was clearly reading the books that he illustrated, for here we see the evil Vril as floating orbs hovering over and impinging upon a tortured, helpless human figure.   This image is taken directly from the story, and is rather effective as a design, though not a very strong as an illustration.

On a similar note, the cover for Book of Ptath, is a great design with uneven work in the illustration itself.   Almost characteristic to Donnell’s style, there are elements rendered in tight delineation, such as the ornamental sceptre, while surrounding it is a vague blurry ray, in this case spiraling upward as an ethereal beam of light.   The occult symbology here, like that of a tarot card, is perfect for the subject matter, the arcane Book of Ptath, which is hastily tossed in as a “book” shape in the corner.  Though the illustration is not particularly strong, the occult theme is effective, while the strong red and black shapes hit you like a punch in the nose.

Finally, I would like to mention Donnell’s interpretation of The Legion of Space, which is nothing more than a sleek looking tower, rising in cold and windowless arrogance into a hot pink sky.  It has a clean, art deco streamlined look.   The font on the huge black band (which does not seem hand-written) that takes up nearly a third of the cover area, is crisp and perfect, as is the longhand script for the author’s name floating at the top.   The simplicity and power of this book jacket design should have Chip Kidd slapping his forehead in awe and admiration.  It is just sleek, pristine, arresting.   Few covers from small presses in the 1950s could touch those of A. J. Donnell, and it is worth giving them another look.


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