A visit from Caspar Henderson
Today we were lucky enough to get a visit from Caspar Henderson, author of The Book of Barely Imagined Beings. The book is described as a 21st century bestiary, detailing some of the planet’s most incredible creatures – from Axolotl to Zebrafish. It’s a beautiful book, with incredible illustrations by Golbanou Moghaddas. We spent an interesting hour talking about his concept and creative process. Afterwards, I asked everyone to email me their highlights. This is the result:
Ben: Uncertainty is no reason for inaction. Enjoyment is political. Celebrate the poetry of the natural world.
Kelvin: The future is not inevitable. Are ‘rational optimists’ ‘practical visionaries’?
Niki: While he had a clear vision of what he wanted at the outset, things changed along the way (in response to new ideas, and in response to practicalities) and yet he is still happy with the final output – so I took out that while the brief is important, so is being flexible and creative along the way.
Claire: Beautiful book – in terms of the end product and the thinking behind it. Three of the things that stuck: The need to balance ‘wonder’ with ‘worry’ when discussing the state of the natural world. Enjoyment can be political. The future/forecasts is/are not inevitable.
Amy: I liked the idea of a book being almost impossible to categorise. ”Creative non-fiction’ is essentially what we aspire to as a studio, I think. It’s about seeing what’s there in a new light – ideally, a light that engages other people. I loved Caspar’s belief that “Life is inspiring, all the way down”, and had never really considered that cellular or viral processes could be things of beauty before. There’s also his idea that you can look at life in two ways – by pretending nothing worrying is happening, or by recognising that something worrying is happening but finding things to celebrate within it. Finally, I like the idea that writers are stumbling around, never completely sure of where they are going until it’s on the page.
Matt: Brilliant book. Great that he wrote the book for the pure love of it and resisted including too much of an environmental agenda or call to action in it. I think making it a celebration of amazing animals and not a manifesto will make it appeal to a much wider audience. Perfect Christmas present for someone.
Christian: If I’ didn’t have a stack of books I’m already meant to be reading, then I’d buy this one. Looks very promising.