This week our bookshelf belongs to Chris O’Reilly, creative developer behind the animation studio Nexus. With fifteen years of innovative creative projects, award winning commercials, a Grammy nominated video, the Cannes Grand Prix and an Academy Award nomination under the studio’s belt, Chris certainly lives a busy life. But he’s taken some time to share his literary favorites with us and it’s a beautiful spread of classics from the world of theater, photography and children’s verse. Read on and relish.
Oh, The Places You Will Go Dr. Seuss
Somehow I only came across this recently. This is kind of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If, minus the pith helmets, cricket and colonialism. It speaks to kids and adults alike and is inspirational without being cheesy. Dr. Seuss is the guardian of surreal silliness; beautifully odd, visually crazy but never gratuitous and always meaningful. I think that’s why he is so beloved of animation folk. I’m not sure if this story has the same famous economy of The Cat In the Hat, which used just 236 words, but it certainly punches well above its word-weight. Read this book and you will succeed in everything you do. Except when you don’t. Because sometimes you won’t.
Under Milk Wood Dylan Thomas
I have a first edition given to me by my mother as a birthday present some time ago. More recently I found an old LP at a market with Richard Burton’s gravel and honey voice perfectly pitched for the mellifluous lines of Thomas’ verse:
“It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless
and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched,
courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the
sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea.”
It’s a big, generous soup of a poem. I first read this when I was about 14 and it made a big impression. But I always remember “seeing it” as animated. I think that’s the powerful effect of Dylan Thomas’ use of language and the heightened quality of the voices.
A Kanji Dictionary
This book sits largely unread on my shelf. When I was in my early twenties I lived in Kumamoto, Japan. I arrived without any Japanese at all. I left a year later with barely that much more. I was out in the rural countryside teaching English at a local school and like me, the kids were still learning the complex kanji of written Japanese. Ten-year olds would sit there and ink page after page of beautifully crafted characters. Mine looked like they had been drawn by a monkey in boxing gloves. I think learning kanji explains the excellence of Japanese graphic arts, which I’ve always found inspiring. They can really control a pen.
To look something up in this dictionary you have to count the number of strokes in the character, and then look in that numerical section. Some have nearly thirty tiny strokes!
The Essential Short Stories Anton Chekhov
I’m not sure I quite know what makes Chekhov’s short stories so affecting. There is an amazing understanding of human nature which can be like looking in a mirror and seeing yourself for the first time. Sometimes that can be unsettling. Anyway don’t take my word for it. Nabokov described The Lady with the Dog as one of the greatest stories ever written.
The Print Ansel Adams
This is part three of a trilogy of books by the great American landscape photographer that includes The Camera and The Negative. When I got back from Japan I built myself a darkroom in the basement of my parent’s house and spent hours of the day immersed in the wet chemistry of printing. I never went in to photography as I never felt that I could handle the creative solitude. Film and animation were so much more social compared to the intensity of the darkroom. But when I open that book now it has a familiar vinegary darkroom smell. For that reason alone I’m very fond of it.