October 18, 2013
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post for Three Guys One Book about a few favourite books in my life, one of which was Dorothy Ann Lovell’s In the Land of the Thinsies .
A forgotten children’s book with illustrations by Nicolas Bentley, it tells of a girl who neglects to get off at the end of a London Underground escalator, rolls through the crack, and is squeezed flat and shot out into a subterranean world where everything and everyone is as thin as a sheet of pastry.
The copy I read (aged about 8) belonged to my mother, who says she has been nervous of escalators ever since. The impact on me was different. It was the first time I remember having that real science-fiction “sense of wonder”, the tingling effect of encountering a world that is almost familiar, and has a scientific rationale of sorts, yet is utterly bizarre, remote, and dreamlike. It left me with a lifelong fascination for underground worlds, flatlands, hollow earths and the like.
When I wrote about it for Three Guys, I wasn’t able to find any illustrations online, nor a second-hand copy. I could only look at the copy in the British Library, and I found it a bit disappointing, as often happens with remembered marvels.
But I have now just found some images on a brilliant site devoted to illustrated storytelling: Chris Mullen’s The Visual Telling of Stories. Beware: if you go there, you will probably lose yourself for hours.
He gives us a number of double-page spreads from In the Land of the Thinsies, with illustrations and sections of narrative. I hope no one will mind if I post one here. (If anyone does, tell me and I will pull it back through the cracks). Do go to the site to look at more if you are intrigued.
Funny: this time, looking at the images, it does seem marvellous again. How does that work?