Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Animations of Mortality Signed by Terry Gilliam

Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
—William Wordsworth
Ode, Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

Well, don't ask me. But fast forward more than 170 years and we have the book Animations of Mortality by Terry Gilliam with Lucinda Cowell, and perhaps the only Wordsworthian pun in the history of animation—or animations as the British sometimes say. Without that idiosyncratic plural Animations appearing in the credits of all the Monty Python episodes, the play on words on Wordsworth would never work. As it is, I'm not sure Immortality shouldn't have been left in the book title—Animations of Immortality maintains Wordsworth's rhythm and grandeur, but then perhaps Mortality is more appropriately humble. Humility hardly seems necessary when Gilliam's career in television and later the movies virtually guarantees that his work will outlive him, but immortality is a mighty big mantle for any artist to claim. Whether the book's clever title is the work of Gilliam, of his unsung coauthor Cowell, or of some unseen editorial hand is unknown, at least to me.

Far more lighthearted in spirit is Gilliam's handling of the book signing. In the example below, Gilliam has drawn an odd mustachioed figure with a prehensile nose signing his name in pencil. Thus he wishes the recipient Stephen Kroninger "Safe Dreams" albeit in a somewhat disturbing manner. Immortality would not seem to be particularly on Mr. Gilliam's mind here, and with that healthy attitude his immortality might very well be assured.

Animations of Mortality, 1978
Inscribed "For Stephen—
Safe dreams—
Terry Gilliam"
with a drawing
Terry Gilliam, Animations of Mortality, 1978
Bookseller image

Terry Gilliam, Animations of Mortality, 1978
Bookseller image

Terry Gilliam, Animations of Mortality, 1978
Bookseller image

Animations of Mortality
by Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam Explains Monty Python Animations

Note: Thanks to Stephen Kroninger for sharing this unique item from his library. Other owners of distinctive Gilliam art are invited to share it here.

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