We kick off our annual roundup of the season's most delicious and giftable picture books with a volume of paintings, drawings, and doodles by writers from Patricia Highsmith to Proust. Francine Prose casts an eye.
What did some 200 renowned authors do with their boundless creativity when they weren't writing? The paintings, drawings, and sculptures in The Writer's Brush
(Mid-List) include architectural doodles in the margins of Dostoyevsky's notebook and Patricia Highsmith's menacing self-portrait, Rudyard Kipling's illustration for one of his own fables and Arthur Rimbaud's sketches of men in the street, Nabokov's colored-pencil rendering of butterflies and Mark Strand's poetic abstractions. There's a wide range of technical skill—August Strindberg and Victor Hugo were accomplished, visionary artists, while Proust's cartoonish figures have the crudeness of a child's first efforts. But these images, accompanied by brief biographies, open windows through which we can glimpse something new and often unexpected about the sensibilities—and the souls—of our favorite writers.