Literary Life

Literary Life

After enjoying Mrs Weber’s Omnibus, I thought I’d pick up the remaining Posy Simmonds comic collection, Literary Life. The slim (76-page) squarish hardcover was published in 2003, reprinting strips from the Guardian. The format is such that this feels like a picture book, only for adults. It’s very approachable.

It would make a terrific companion for anyone who enjoyed Simmonds’ Tamara Drewe, either book or movie version. The characters in these strips — aspiring country writer, bookseller complaining about chain competition, stodgy authors and short-skirted publicity women — could have stepped right out of that story.

Literary Life

All are illustrated beautifully, a page per the particular type under observation, with anywhere from one panel to 14 on a page. The linework and shading are wonderful, demonstrating highly evocative character expressions. One fascinating page shows a woman writing a love scene. As the figures become more entwined, Simmonds varies her lines and tools so that the writer and her computer look blockier, with fine pen giving way to smudgy charcoal and thickly painted ink to capture the rising excitement visually. She also does a parody of a doctor’s advice strip in old-fashioned costuming to diagnose writer’s block or critical drubbing.

I love Simmonds’ work because its phrasing and details are so very British. Readers, particularly Anglophiles, will find much to appreciate in this book of cartoons, from the editor obsessing over printing details to the author searching to see how his books are selling online to the struggles of a signing appearance. Most everyone wants to be famous, even while bemoaning how terrible an imposition it is.

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