Artists’ Books in Howard Gardens library – a book a day in October – day 21!

by Jackie Batey 

“This book was inspired by the notion that, when looked at closely, smoking a cigarette is a strange activity. The Bob Newhart monologue ‘The Introduction of Tobacco to Civilisation’ is a case in point. Smoking is not a basic need such as eating or drinking but rather a skill that, once the fundamentals are learnt, requires practice and patience to develop. The “believe-it-or-not” strategy was based loosely on Ripley’s regular feature in newspapers and collections from the ‘fifties, but the images were developed from cigarette advertisements from the U.S. between 1938-72 and then redrawn to place emphasis on the absurdity of the activity. Grubby marks on the illustrations were enhanced to give the feel the images are ‘dirty’ as printed. I wrote the text in a style aiming to satirise the short-snappy ‘Amazing Facts’ tone of children’ comics or encyclopedias. Texts aimed at younger readers often seem to convey the anxiety that the reader will tire of a subject should the copy spread to more than 5 lines. I have made sure that the concepts in Surely Not jump breathlessly from theme to theme at high speed never allowing the reader to dwell on one story for long. The font chosen was one resembling a style often employed in comics to give the feeling that the text had been hand written. ‘Comic Sans’ is heavy and stolid but its informal structure tries desperately to imply jollity. The central gatefold shows the Smoking Beagle, hopefully reminding the reader of the vast number of beagles that were used to test cigarettes (to public outrage in the late eighties).”

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