Illustration and the Novel

Wander through Zak Smith’s illustrations of Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. From Creon Upton’s intro

Zak Smith’s Illustrations, then, is not Zak Smith’s Gravity’s Rainbow. It is a major work, but it is not a career-defining work. Pynchon (we assume) put the better part of a decade into his novel; Smith put in a year. Pynchon’s depth of research alone is staggering. When he describes an everyday item in the novel, we can feel sure of the historical accuracy (or deliberate inaccuracy) of his description; Smith, on the other hand, takes his inspiration from the novel itself, without much recourse to the historical world it describes. Smith seems to realise that his illustrations are subordinate to the novel in this respect. He is not attempting to create the visual equivalent of Gravity’s Rainbow; rather, wisely, he is attempting to supplement the novel with a visual interpretation that respects the novel’s form, manner and tone.

2 thoughts on “Illustration and the Novel

  1. susan

    It is a separate and yet as you say, a visual interpretation that would be judged on its own. Much the same as I would not form an opinion on the guilt or innocence of Grace Marks of Alias Grace, but rather of Atwood’s interpretation of her in the novel. Personally, I didn’t care for the art but do see its value in telling a story in graphic form. There’s a lot of work put into it, regardless of time cut out by unneeded research or creative planning (versus interpretation).

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