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February 1, 2002
Classics Illustrated Series of Comics-Style Literary Masterpieces (1941-71) to Be Discussed at the Library of Congress on Tuesday, March 5
William B. Jones Jr. will discuss his new book, Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, with Illustrations (McFarland & Company, 2002), at the Library of Congress at 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 5, in the Mumford Room, sixth floor, James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. Part of the Center for the Book's "Books & Beyond" author series, the program is free and open to the public. No tickets are required. The program is co-sponsored with the Library's Serial and Government Publications Division, home of the Library's complete collection of the Classics Illustrated series, and the Arkansas Center for the Book.
From 1941 to 1971, the well-loved yet controversial Classics Illustrated series brought abridged, comics-style versions of literary masterpieces such as Homer's Odyssey, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Goethe's Faust , and Victor Hugo's Les Miserables to children and adults worldwide. Through his series, Classics Illustrated founder Albert Kanter, a Russian Jewish immigrant, introduced millions of Americans to the works of dozens of "classical" authors. The series' abridged comic-book style brought criticism from purists, which in turn was countered by those who felt that the successful introduction of serious books to a popular audience was more important than the style or technique of the introduction. Others praised the work of the many illustrators who contributed to the series.
Mr. Jones's volume describes popular reaction to the series and the issues that it raised, emphasizing the cultural context of the times. As a reference work it includes a list of the contents of each issue, information about the careers and contributions of each of the illustrators, and a generous sampling (totaling more than 200 illustrations) of each of their works.
William B. Jones Jr. is a lawyer and freelance author who lives in Little Rock, Ark. and currently works for the Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. He is a historian of "neglected" aspects of popular 20th century American culture such as alternative journalism, the Davy Crockett craze of 1955, and regional garage-band music. He also was the chair of a November 2000 symposium sponsored by the Central Arkansas Library System in honor of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Robert Louis Stevenson, and currently is editing a festschrift that developed out of the conference.
Issues of Classics Illustrated from the Library's collection will be on display during the March 5 program. The Library's complete set, received through copyright deposit, is housed in the Comic Book Collection in the Serial and Government Publications Division. More than 100,000 issues of 6,000 comic book titles from the 1930s to the present are available for research purposes in the division's Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room.
The Arkansas Center for the Book, established in 1999, is located at the Arkansas State Library. It hosted a program featuring Mr. Jones in Little Rock on Dec. 11.
The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress was established in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and libraries. For information about its program, publications, and the activities of its affiliated centers in 44 states and the District of Columbia, visit its Web site at www.loc.gov/cfbook.
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