Friday, July 12, 2013

"Like all inexperienced people with art, they would find a flaw that isn't really a flaw" - the Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage

The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage : Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art by Stephen D. Korshak & J. David Spurlock is a coffee table book which isn't produced to be a coffee table book. I shall explain. This hefty 184 page tome is devoted to Margaret Brundage, one of the most popular pulp magazine cover artists of the 1930s, renowned especially for her Weird Tales covers; when Weird Tales left her home city of Chicago it was the end of her career in the pulps, even though she continued to produce art until her death in 1976.

This book was assembled by Vanguard Productions on fine, glossy paper with a very nice section devoted to reproducing Brundage's covers; additionally, pin-up, original art and never before-seen artwork grace the various articles which comprise the rest of the book. If you find Brundage's work intriguing, the graphics will certainly not disappoint you.

Unfortunately, I'm here to say I find fault with virtually every other aspect of the book. The book opens with a foreward by Rowena which amounts to little more than "I don't know much about Brundage, but isn't her art nice?" Followed by an article by Stephen D. Korshak; then an article by Robert Weinberg; then Charles Wooley, R. Alain Everts, Ray Russell, George Hagenauer, Melvin Korshak and finally a 60-page section by J. David Spurlock. Some of the authors (such as Weinberg) have anecdotes about their history with Brundage which are very intersting to read and Everts republishes an interview with Brundage; virtually everyone steps on everyone else's toes, however, as they each feel the need to write a biography on Brundage. Again and again. There's no flow to the book - not only because each author's section has nothing to indicate where it ends (you turn a page and, oh, a new author) but because they're each in competition with each other. Rather than the ultimate Margaret Brundage coffee table book, it reads like a Weird Tales fanzine which was accidentally distributed on fancy paper.

Contributing to the amateur feeling are various formatting errors - lines of text missing from the page, paragraphs not set correctly and in at least one place, I had a sense that a page formatted for the left-hand side was moved to the right.

I would have liked to have seen a book with a stronger editorial presence - the interview and the artwork sections are fine, but I would have preferred a definitive single biography with various anecdotes distributed throughout. If you buy the book for the art, you'll love it; if you want a great Margaret Brundage biography, well, it remains to be written...

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