The Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, who was born in the middle of the 18th century and died in middle of the 19th, is best known for his woodblock print “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” It’s the familiar image of a powerful wave in a stormy sea about to crash down on a pair of boats, Mount Fuji in the distance against an ashen sky.
Tucked away in a storage room at the Museum of Fine Arts, a collection of Hokusai’s drawings was recently unearthed and has been published for the first time. “Hokusai’s Lost Manga’’ (MFA Publications) by MFA curator Sarah E. Thompson features drawings from a book-in-progress that never made it to print.
As Thompson points out, the word “manga” has shifted over time: Today we understand manga to mean graphic stories; in Hokusai’s day it meant “informal drawings.” The handsome volume includes dozens of lively, lovely images, showcasing Hokusai’s skill at capturing movement, in swirling garments, in water, in wind, in bodies in motion at work, spinning pots on a wheel, making paper, washing a horse, trekking up a hill.
His stiller drawings of cliffs, lilies, seashells, and crabs delight as well. The unpublished book was meant to be titled “Master Iitsu’s Chicken-Rib Picture Book.” “Chicken rib,” Thompson explains, “is a classical Chinese literary expression for something that is trivial but nevertheless worthwhile, like the small but tasty bit of meat on a chicken rib.” This volume doesn’t feel trivial, but is tasty indeed.
Bookstores popping up
So it appears that fears about the impending death of brick-and-mortar bookstores may have been greatly exaggerated. Michael Joachim, a former book buyer for the Paper Store, and publishing professional Tracey McCrea recently opened Stax Discount Books in Marlborough. The 3,000-square-foot space offers 20 percent off new hardcovers and paperbacks and steeply discounted prices for remainders. And Kathy Crowley and Chris Abouzeid, who are planning a March opening for their Belmont Books, recently opened the store’s virtual doors online at www.belmontbooks.com while gearing up to stock their downtown Belmont shelves.
Islandport launches magazine
“We are a regional publisher,” Islandport Press says with a characteristic downeast matter of factness on its website. The books the Yarmouth, Maine-based publisher puts out “reflect a New England sensibility,” are set primarily in the Northeast, and characterize the people and its culture. The press has recently launched a quarterly publication, Islandport Magazine, that takes a similar thematic tack. It features the work of Islandport Press writers and artists, as well as fiction, profiles, photo essays, and pieces on music, sports, and culture. Founder Dean Lunt, a former journalist, calls it a “nod to the wonderful magazines of old that featured interesting, well-written stories as well as brilliant images.”
“The Heronry’’ by Mark Jarman (Sarabande)
"Idaho’’ by Emily Ruskovich (Random House)
“Transit’’ by Rachel Cusk (Farrar Straus and Giroux)
Pick of the Week
Drew Bean at Phoenix Books in Burlington, Vt., recommends “Peplum’’ by Blutch (New York Review Comics): “A surreal interpretation of the Roman satire ‘The Satyricon,’ ‘Peplum’ is a stand-out graphic work of art. Following a forgotten foot soldier suffering the worst case of unrequited love, this dream-like series of misadventures pleads to be studied and discussed. The stark, brutal pen and pencil work perfectly illustrates this ‘gorgeously chaotic fever