Episode 36: Graphic Novels: A Comic Turn with Posy Simmonds & Paul Gravett

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The cartoonist, writer and illustrator Posy Simmonds brilliantly captures the ambitions and pretensions of the literary world, and the journalist and curator Paul Gravett has worked in comics publishing for decades. Together they bring graphic novels and comic books to the foreground with the Slightly Foxed team. We draw moral lessons from the Ally Sloper cartoons of the 1870s, glimpse Frans Masereel’s wordless woodcut stories of the 1920s, view the pictorial politics of Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo in the 1940s and revisit Art Spiegelman’s 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus before taking a closer look at more contemporary works.

From a tragicomic summer with Joff Winterhart, nuclear explosions with Raymond Briggs, the shadow of James Joyce with Mary and Bryan Talbot and an Iranian childhood with Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, the discussion moves through panels, frames, splashes and spreads to Posy Simmonds’s own methods in bringing literature to life, including crosshatching to Vivaldi. Originally serialized in the Guardian, Posy’s Gemma Bovery builds on the bones of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Tamara Drewe draws from Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, while Cassandra Darke takes inspiration from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Though rooted in the classics, the devil is in Posy’s detail, be it real French coffee pots, the joy of characters’ names, such as Kevin Penwallet, and fictional places, such as Tresoddit.

We continue our travels off the beaten track with our usual round-up of reading recommendations, and a trip to Gilbert White’s House and Gardens in Hampshire, where we view the landscapes that sparked his evergreen classic The Natural History of Selborne.


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Show Notes

Please find links to books, articles, and further reading listed below. The digits in brackets following each listing refer to the minute and second they are mentioned. (Episode duration: 44 minutes; 39 seconds)

Books Mentioned

We may be able to get hold of second-hand copies of the out-of-print titles listed below. Please get in touch with Jess in the Slightly Foxed office for more information.

Ally Sloper: A Moral Lesson, cartoons by Marie Duval and words by Judy’s office boy is out of print (4:48)

– Miné Okubo, Citizen 13660 (6:29)

– George Takei, They Called Us Enemy (7:25)

– Jules Feiffer, Passionella and Other Stories is out of print (9:05)

– Art Spiegelman, Maus (10:37)

– Mary M. Talbot & Bryan Talbot, Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes (12:52)

– Joff Winterhart, Days of the Bagnold Summer (13:22)

– Raymond Briggs, When the Wind Blows (15:42)

– Raymond Briggs, Ethel & Ernest (17:07)

– Posy Simmonds, Gemma Bovery (17:48)

– Posy Simmonds, Tamara Drewe (17:48)

– Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis (28:31)

– Posy Simmonds, Cassandra Darke (29:04)

– Riad Sattouf, The Arab of the Future (30:24)

– Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (31:20)

– Posy Simmonds, Literary Life Revisited

– Paul Gravett, Posy Simmonds

– Emma Tennant, Burnt Diaries is out of print (34:20)

– Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways (37:28)

Our Time, an anthology commissioned by The Lakes International Comic Art Festival (38:29)

– Laurie Lee, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. Published in our series of Slightly Foxed Editions, along with Cider with Rosie (39:54)

– Gilbert White, The Natural History of Selborne (41:24)

Related Slightly Foxed Articles & Illustrations

Underwear Was Important, Hazel Wood on the cartoons of Posy Simmonds, Issue 15

Cover illustration by Posy Simmonds, Issue 16

– Inside cover illustration by Posy Simmonds, Issue 60

Touched with a Secret Delight, Melissa Harrison on Gilbert White, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, Issue 48

Other Links

Posy Simmonds Close Up, Cartoonmuseum Basel, Switzerland. The exhibition runs until 24 October 2021 (2:39)

The bd BOUM festival, Blois, France. The festival is chaired by Posy Simmonds and runs from 19-21 November 2021

Gosh! Comics, London, UK (31:58)

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, Kendal, UK (32:08)

Thought Bubble, The Yorkshire Comic Convention, Harrogate, UK (32:26)

Gilbert White’s House & Gardens, Selborne, UK (41:13)

Opening music: Preludio from Violin Partita No.3 in E Major by Bach

The Slightly Foxed Podcast is hosted by Philippa Lamb and produced by Podcastable


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Comments & Reviews

  1. George Woodman says:

    As always, Slightly Foxed podcasts make a great component of a relaxing Sunday evening! Greatly enjoyed listening to Posy Simmonds. Remembered the meticulous drawing in Mrs Weber’s Diary.

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