Karen Haber Reviews The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde & Yuko Shimizu

The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde: An Illuminated Edition, Oscar Wilde & Yuko Shimizu (Beehive Books 979-1-948886-01-7, $100.00, 140pp, hc) April 2020. Cover by Yuko Shimuzu.

Historically, small presses have been the refuge of non-mainstream writers and artists, whose work they have nurtured and promoted. In the SFnal field they have provided an important home for many award-winning writers (I’m looking at you, Tachyon). In addition to Tachyon Publications right here in the SF Bay Area, the small press list includes so many important publishers I can’t list them all, but here are a few: Centipede, Arc Manor, 3 Rooms Press. Each of these organiza­tions is deserving of praise. Several – Centipede, Tachyon – focus not merely on text but on book design and illustrations. Beehive Books must be added to the list with its varied, gorgeous, crowd­funded limited editions.

Self-described as a “House of Quixotic Publish­ing,” Beehive is a new small press imprint founded by artist and designer Maëlle Doliveux and writer and editor Josh O’Neill, also publisher of Locust Moon Press.

They called the company Beehive to emphasize the cooperative nature of their undertaking. “We are a boutique company committed to producing book art editions of distinctive literary and pictorial works with singular design sensibilities, the highest production values.” They made good on their inten­tions: You’ve never seen a fairy tale book like The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde with illustrations by award-winning artist Yuko Shimizu. It’s as much a collectible object as a book. The slipcase – die-cut, debossed, foil blocked – announces the fact.

The printing job inside the book and the de­sign by Doliveaux is dazzling: thick paper, rich color, inspired use of patterns and motifs. Big illuminated letters, imprinted with elements from Shimuzu’s illustrations, open each story.

This volume brings together the “The Happy Prince” (1888) and “The House of Pomegran­ates” (1891). Wilde’s fairy tales are true to the Brothers Grimm mold, with many a startling, poignant ending, and may not be the best choice for reading aloud to children before bed, but adults will appreciate them.

Shimuzu’s illustrations are varied, powerful, and often evoke batik and other resist-dyeing techniques. As impressive as the illustrations are, the design of the book matches them with elegance and inspired use of color and pattern to set each story in its own frame. (This holds true for two other Beehive Books; The Island of Doc­tor Moreau by H.G. Wells illustrated by comics/illustration superstar Bill Sienkiewicz, and the seminal dark fantasy The Willows by Algernon Blackwood with art by Paul Pope.) These limited-edition crowd-funded volumes raise the bar to the highest level of quality and artistry.

To borrow from Michael Cunningham’s introduction, “The pairing of Oscar Wilde’s gorgeous (and occasionally perverse) fairy tales with Yuko Shimizu’s gorgeous (and occasionally perverse) illustrations is a meeting of two such extraordinary talents…. I feel certain that these stories have waited almost 130 years for their true visual mates.”

This review and more like it in the December 2020 issue of Locus.

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