Fantasy and Paranormal Reading Ruminations Reading Themes

[Saturday Reads] The Anatomy of Fantasy as seen through Jeff Vandermeer’s “Wonderbook”

"Wonderbook" by Jeff Vandermeer.


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just booklove miscellany in general.

Many thanks, dear Iphigene, for this lovely widget. Truly beautiful.
Many thanks, dear Iphigene, for this lovely widget. Truly beautiful.

I discovered this book several months back and I just know taht it’s perfect for our current reading theme.


The next best thing to reading about reading is reading about writing. This gorgeously packaged, beautifully designed, and exquisitely illustrated WonderGuide is leaving me breathless in its scope, magnitude, vision. It breaks down elements of the fantastique, the anatomy of the strange, the skeletal system of the bizarre with gorgeous art one can drown in, luscious writing that allows me a taste of the marvelous, and allusions to more novelists, books, authors that I am not familiar with. What a treasure trove this book is.

There are also helpful unique guides throughout the book that provide various perspectives such as Myster Odd who helps the reader view the familiar with strange eyes, Little Aliens who explain the supposed nuts and bolts of a concept, the Devil’s Advocate who continually offers a counterpoint to a prevailing idea, the All-Seeing Pen-Eye who jumps out with a writing challenge connected to the topic explored on the page, and the Webinator that prompts the reader to check out more resources found at the Wonderbook website.


When I borrowed this book from the public library, I was teaching a 3-day course module on critical and creative thinking skills with the Singapore army. As I was going through the Introduction and the first chapter that deals with inspiration and the creative life, I realized that what Vandermeer is writing about, is not just applicable to authors but cuts across multiple disciplines and domains. Here are a few lines that struck me which I took pictures of and edited using an iPhone app – and which I shared with the Singapore army.

This fit in quite well when I discussed the importance of capturing ideas:


The significance of curiosity:


The value of dreaming and imagination:


And this is only the first chapter. I also found a few diagrams that helped elucidate the concept of inspiration:



Apart from that first chapter that I felt could be used across different domains, the succeeding chapters focus more on the craftsmanship of writing. Chapter 2 deals with the ecosystem of a story and the various narrative life forms. Check this figure out:


The third chapter explores Beginnings and Endings. See it from Myster Odd’s vantage point:



Chapter Four is all about the narrative design with a thorough exploration of plot, structure, scenes, time, among others. Chapter Five focuses on characterization, Chapter 6 on Worldbuilding and Chapter 7 on Revision. There are also sidebar essays and short pieces written by contributors such as George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guin, Peter Straub, Karen Joy Fowler, Catherynne M. Valente among others. There are writing prompts such as this one:


And there are gorgeous illustrations that are simply awe-inspiring such as the following:



Vandermeer has accomplished something that no other author has ever done, thus far. He has untangled the threads that make fantasy work, dissecting its various features and elements while at the same time retaining its power, its glimmer, as he honors the very essence of magic. I will have to buy myself a copy of this book. Find it and be as entranced as I was.

Here is a book trailer to make you more excited about the book:

1 comment on “[Saturday Reads] The Anatomy of Fantasy as seen through Jeff Vandermeer’s “Wonderbook”

  1. This sounds awesome!!! 😀


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