Monday, October 15, 2012

RADIOACTIVE - a guest book review

We asked Yael Gen, our in-house designer and talented artist in her own right, to read and review for us this year's GO BIG READ title, RADIOACTIVE by Lauren Redniss. Below are her thoughtful words about this year's choice.

"As an avowed bibliophile and print designer who only recently succumbed to (and thoroughly enjoyed) my first e-reader, encountering Lauren Redniss’s Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout is a joyous reminder of the impact of the printed page. Redniss reveals a story of love and loss that includes Marie’s sad childhood, Pierre Curie’s untimely and random demise under the wheels of a horse cart, a storybook romance between their daughter and Marie’s research assistant and even scandal, when the widowed Marie Curie carries on an affair with a married scientist. There was no delineation between Marie and Pierre Curies’ research and personal lives. “Their handwritings intermingle in their notebooks. …the initials ‘M’ and ‘P’ are scripted directly atop each other.”

Redniss creates a modern hybrid of an illuminated manuscript crossed with a graphic novel; rich with image and text. There are details one could squabble with. The typeface that is used throughout the book can be difficult to read on some of the pages that are dense with text. But it’s hard to take Redniss to task after reading the lovely and extensive notes and discovering that she created the typeface “based on title pages of manuscripts at the New York Public Library.” 

Redniss’ drawing style is loose and spidery and the cyanotype process imbues them an ethereal quality. She artfully weaves archival documents (Hiroshima, Chernobyl, Irving Lowen’s FBI file ) and photos between her original, luminous cyanotypes and vibrant narrative to create something that is classified as a graphic novel for convenience. Radioactive is a unique book-as-object experience, one that I recommend you keep on your nightstand. When you switch off your light, the cover glows in the dark like the jar of radium Marie Curie kept by her pillow."

Ms. Redniss speaks tonight (Monday October 15th) in Madison at a free event.  Details.

Thanks to Ms. Gen for her review!