gary larson, famous for his far side series of cartoons, retired from drawing the series on january 1 1995. for those of us greatly endeared to his drawings and sense of humour, it's hard to believe that it's been over 20 years since the last cartoon appeared. it was also something of a revelation to discover that larson was not the person responsible for thus naming the cartoon series that has been archived in a total of twenty-three books, publications that have sold in excess of forty-five million copies.
having already sold his cartoon series to a couple of seattle based newspapers, he offered the same to the san francisco chronicle while on holiday in california and on accepting the strip for both publication and syndication, it was they who renamed it the far side. presumably less than impressed with larson's entrepreneurial spirit, the seattle times dropped the previous moniker nature's way.
since larson retired from his eccentric drawing regime he has only occasionally offered the odd cartoon and illustration, also publishing his first post far side book, entitled there's a hair in my dirt!: a worm's story, though continuing in a similar genre. also very much in his favour, larson is also an accomplished jazz guitarist.
around the time larson decided to call it a day, a friend of mine received a page-to-a-day desk calendar featuring 365 far side cartoons. pretty much guaranteed to place everything in some sort of perspective at the start of each day. though the fellow was promoted in his job and moved away from the island, he sent me red cross parcels every couple of weeks containing a bunch of larson's cartoons. disappointingly, i did not have the restraint to simply read one per day, binging on the whole lot in one whimsical session. i still have all of those cartoons in a bedroom drawer.
in the last twenty years, however, i have not once come across a cycling-based calendar that might offer velocipedinal succour for the day, one that might make me even more unbearable than i probably already am. having just such a calendar sitting adjacent to my imac strikes me as a pretty darned good idea, and perhaps such an item does or has existed. but i never found it. however, this latest book from aurum press, published on 1 october in hardback format, will probably provide the ideal substitute.
the title 'a year in the saddle' could be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, but in fact offers a short individual story from cycling history pertaining to a specific date. for instance, if we take a look at the book's publication date (1 october) the story concerns marianne vos winning her first rainbow jersey on that date in 2004.
"That seventeen-year-old Vos, loaded with potential then, is now widely regarded as the finest cyclist of her generation. The only rider who stands comparison with her is Eddy Merckx and she shares his nickname of the Cannibal."
randomly picking out headings from the book's 352 pages (there is often more than a single story per page) on 23 april The Florist wins Paris-Roubaix (louis trousselier), 4 march Jean Robic wins the first cyclo-cross world championship (1950), Ian Steel wins first Tour of Britain (1951) and probably the hardest to pronounce after a packet of wine gums, 14 september Alfons Van Hecke wins 10th Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen (1922).
as if the wealth of information contained between those two hard covers were insufficient to offer daily joy, daniel seex's illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to belbin's text. i have no idea of the medium in which the originals were conceived or printed, but they closely resemble screen prints. the majority are remarkably inventive, but i confess my favourite appears between pages 23 and 26 and is of a repeating pattern of kangaroos, one of which is aboard a bicycle. it follows the story for 19 january celebrating the inaugural tour down under in 1999.
in the absence of the aforementioned desktop calendar, i will be taking my review copy into the office and regaling my work colleagues with an exciting narrative each morning, though with no disrespect intended, it'll never compete with the cows of the far side.
a year in the saddle is published on thursday 1 october.
tuesday 29 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................