Brad and Mark Leithauser are brothers, born in Detroit in the 1950s. Brad is a bard (the author, most recently, of the novel in verse, Darlington’s Fall), and Mark has made his mark as a painter and draftsman. They share the same exquisite family wit, one born in precise observation matched with intellectual playfulness. This wit is on display on every page of this remarkable alphabet book, each spread of which is devoted to an emblematic creature—an appetitive Anteater, an annoying Fly, an addled Joey, a prickly Porcupine, and twenty-two more. On the left of each spread is an eight-line poem; opposite it is a delicate, complementary pencil drawing, reproduced here in exacting duotone. The poems will remind readers sometimes of Marianne Moore, sometimes of Ogden Nash; the detail of the drawings will remind them of John James Audubon and their pointed humor of Tenniel’s Alice in Wonderland. But comparisons are odious here: this book is a duet by two great contemporary artists, a unicum by any description.
The Limited Edition Hardcover comes with a signed slipcase.
In this charming yet thoroughly modern emblem book, the animal subjects consider their own significance; they do not allow moralizing meanings to be plastered on them. If the ingenuity with which these animals speak for themselves makes its allusive bow to Marianne Moore and La Fontaine, Brad Leithauser frames his own kind of epigram, with his own tones of pointed observation and with a formal skill few poets still possess. And Mark Leithauser’s drawings depict the creatures revealed in the verses—not always the same creatures as their real-world counterparts—with analagous graphic wit.
Brad Leithauser has both eye-knowledge and heart-knowledge. He is a poet open to the world, and artfully open in what he makes of it. His poems have the high morale which comes of enjoying one’s perceptions, finding just the right words for them, and heightening those words with suitable form.
Mark Leithauser’s art, often stimulated by his daily contact with global masterpieces at the National Gallery, is both accomplished and thought-provoking. His deft etchings . . . meticulously detailed . . . suggest an affinity with Albrecht Dürer; his trompe l’oeil oil paintings . . . would make John F. Peto, Salvador Dalí, and Richard Estes proud.
Finally, a work of sublime charm: Lettered Creatures. Author Brad Leithauser and artist Mark Leithauser have created an alphabet book of witty worldliness: the worlds of Anteater, Yaks, and Zedonks. Leithauser’s light verse moves nimbly among taut rhythms and relaxed, golden conversation, while on the other side of the spread an image of deeply humorous exactness lovingly looms. Fabulous!
—Tom D’Evelyn, Providence Journal