Peter Lord CBE, co-founder and director of the Academy Award-winning Aardman Animations, visited YCN to share some of the books that have informed his life and work to-date.
On March 25th, Peter Lord CBE, co-founder and director of the Academy Award-winning Aardman Animations, visited 72 Rivington Street to personally share with members a selection of his favourite books to the YCN Lending Library.
Known for creating some of Britain’s most beloved animated characters, including Morph, Shaun the Sheep and Wallace and Gromit, Peter drew in an audience of varied creative occupations, including architects, designers, writers, illustrators and, of course, animators.
Although he studied literature at the University of York, Peter was keen to convey that he can’t speak academically about his chosen titles. “I don’t have any literary jargon. I just try to convey enthusiasm.” Luckily Peter’s passion was never suppressed.
1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
“I find myself drawn towards the profoundly eccentric,” said Peter, as he introduced his first book, giving the audience some background before going on to describe what he considers to be key differences between British and American storytelling. Peter considers Moby Dick and American storytelling to be “ecstatic”, in contrast to our more “domestic” style.
“Amongst the reasons I read is to be taken to other worlds,” Peter said. He then captivated the crowd as he read a rousing passage from the book’s final chapter, praising its “spectacular artificial language”.
2. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
Beginning by explaining that his book club hated Riddley Walker due to its narrative style and distinct language and phonetic transliterations, Peter then displayed an excerpt from the book on screen, allowing the crowd to see its confounding language, something Peter described as a “delightful, challenging puzzle”. While the crowd clearly struggled to decipher the text, Peter read it with a charm and ease few could match.
Muttering to himself as he scanned his notebook, Peter was obviously enjoying himself as he relayed the memories connected to his books. “I’ll be with you in just a second. I have so many exciting notes.”
3. Krazy Kat by George Herriman
Before introducing his next induction to the YCN Lending Library, Peter told of his love of comics. But also said that his interest had dwindled in his older years. “I sometimes buy superhero comics to see how my old friends have evolved. I’ll buy Spider-Man. It’s 50 years since I’ve read Spider-Man. I’m not happy with the way he’s turned out,” said Peter, much to everyone’s amusement.
Peter than spoke about George Herriman’s Krazy Kat comics. Running from 1913 to 1944, and first appearing in the New York Evening Journal, Peter praised the playfulness of the form, framing, and language, and showcased several slides to reinforce his points.
4. Right Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
“It’s written with such charm; I find it irresistible,” said Peter, praising P. G. Wodehouse’s “fantastic knack for language”. Adopting appropriately comedic voices, Peter then read several passages from Right Ho, Jeeves, the second full-length novel featuring popular characters Jeeves and Wooster.
Peter even related his most famous creation, Wallace and Gromit, to Wodehouse’s affable duo, stating that “the servant is infinitely more intelligent than the master.”
5. Paupers and Pig Killers
An unusual addition to the Lending Library, Paupers and Pig Killers is the 1770 diary written by William Holland, a Reverend of Somerset. Peter’s love of the book is drawn from his amusement at Holland’s “uncharitable” attitude towards his neighbours, and of the description of the past. “It’s the picture of the world that we’ve forgotten.”
6. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Though he described the book as “horrific”, Peter again praised the “amazing use of language” throughout Lolita, adding that it’s “very, very funny, and very, very dark.”
Peter also admired author Vladimir Nabokov’s refusal to conform to convention. “A conventional reader wants a moral ending,” Peter said wryly, “but he doesn’t give us one.”
7. The Mascot by Ladislas Starewicz
When Peter concluded his book list, he treated the assembled crowd to a scene from 1934 puppet film The Mascot. Priming the eager audience by complimenting the “brave madness of it”, Peter unveiled a bizarre, eccentric, amusing and disturbing film that proved gripping and perplexing in equal measure.
With his talk drawn to a close, Peter then fielded questions on his animation influences, to which he stated Czech animator and puppet-maker Jiří Trnka, and on his story writing methods. “The first idea is the most elusive thing,” said Peter, adding that it’s all about “feel and judgement”. Peter also treated the audience to an anecdote involving a visit to acclaimed animator and director Hayao Miyazaki, comparing their techniques, and saying that both like to “start in the middle” of a story, and work outwards from there.
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Nearby YCN Members can now freely borrow all books introduced by Peter from the Lending Library at 72 Rivington Street.
Location:72 Rivington Street,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:25th March, 2014 at 6:30pm
End:25th March, 2014 at 8:00pm