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Amber Albrecht p1

READERSVOICE.COM aims to collect a few good reading tips. In this issue Canadian printmaker Amber Albrecht gives a great list of reading suggestions. Her reading in genres like magical realism has had a big influence on her printmaking and illustration, which has had international recognition. Anyone interested in learning about printmaking or illustration would get some good tips here, too.

To check out Amber Albrecht’s printmaking and illustration, on everything from books to cds, and even on a friend’s wall, visit her website at www.amberalbrecht.com.

READERSVOICE.COM: Your prints and drawings are influenced a lot by your reading. I was wondering if you could remember some interesting books you’ve come across over the years.

AMBER ALBRECHT: Looking back, I feel like when I was a teenager and in my early twenties that I did not discriminate enough in my reading choices. I read anything that I could get my hands on. Being in a very discriminating book club over the past five years has been a good way to end up reading a lot more quality books and ones that I may not have heard of otherwise.
Some of my favorites from the book club over the years have been: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami; The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov; The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O’Connor; The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien; and Laughter in the Dark by Valdimir Nabokov.
Obviously the more fantastical/magical realist books really influence my work as well as really haunting books that delve into the theme of loneliness and have a lot of potent atmospheric detail.
I guess Magical Realism and Southern Gothic really do it for me, and just insanely poetic writers like Nabokov.
Some of the books that I’ve chosen for the club have been Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and Jonathon Saffron-Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
I’m also the kind of reader who will enjoy almost anything as long as it’s well written. I read a lot of non-fiction as well, especially books about animals and the wilderness, a couple of favorites being Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wildernessby Brian Payton and The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant.
In terms of childhood picture books, I still have most of them around. Some of my favorites were: Masquerade by Kit Williams, which involved a riddle hidden inside the story and paintings, which revealed an actual treasure buried somewhere in England for one reader to discover; Where the Wild Things Are (and others) by Maurice Sendak, Zoom at Sea by Tim Wynne-Jones;
many books by Mercer Mayer, Jack Kent and Robert Munch; Bony Legs by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Dirk Zimmer; this breathtakingly beautiful illustrated Russian book involving Baba Yaga called Vassilisa the Beautiful;
Bangalee by Stephen Cosgrove, illustrated by Robin James; Herself the Elf by Lisa Norby; and many more books of illustrated fairy tales.
My favorite book as a teenager, and possibly my favorite book ever (but
which I’ve been meaning to re-read again lately, in fact I’ve been feeling a huge need to re-read it, as it’s been probably ten years) was Little Big by John Crowley. This book possibly had the biggest effect on me both literally and in terms of affecting my creativity and it’s one that I went back to again and again when I was younger. It shares similarities with One Hundred Years of Solitude, being an epic fairy tale of side-stepping magic and spanning many generations of an extraordinary family. It’s a dense meandering book that includes a wondrous architectural marvel of a house in the country and also a lot of city plot as well. It’s somewhat hard to describe, it’s not a book like any other book and I think that it affects the people who read it and love it in a way quite unlike other books.
One unusual book that I own is a great little book called The Adventures of Gremlin by DuPre Jones with drawings by Edward Gorey. It’s out of print and I’ve never been able to find any information on it or it’s author. It’s a hilarious satirical little fairy tale about a couple of siblings who go off on a journey together.
Some of my other favorite books are The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinsky; One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Lolita by Nabokov.
Nothing too out of the ordinary. As gruesome as The Painted Bird is, there was something about how it immediately captured the cruelty and mystery of the rural countryside that got to me right away and I couldn’t help but keep reading the increasingly disturbing events of the book. It had such an effect on me that I’ve read most of Kosinsky’s other books, although there certainly isn’t much magic in them and I find that details of his life are also quite disturbing and fascinating.

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-Copyright Simon Sandall.