By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

Missed Connections: Love, Lost and Found, by Sophie Blackall

Are you a romantic at heart?  Do you create back stories for strangers that you spy on the street?  Artist and illustrator, Sophie Blackall, encountered a “handsome chap” on the subway one day in New York City.  As he exited at his stop, he reappeared at her window and mouthed the words: “Missed Connections.”  Later at her computer, the artist discovered what the man had been referring to: web pages on Craigslist, where people send the online equivalent of a “message in a bottle” to strangers who have captured their interest and imagination.  Missed Connections became Blackall’s new muse (in her excitement, she forgot to check whether a message had ever been posted to her).  She found poetry, mystery, humor, romance and regret in the short messages posted from one stranger to another.  As she kept returning to the website, Blackall came to the happy conclusion that, “If you like doing something, find a way to call it work.”  First she created a blog inspired by these online love notes.  And now she’s written a book, Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found.

Blackall used Chinese ink and watercolor to create the 55 exquisite illustrations in this charming compilation.  Original postings on Missed Connections inspired each picture — often the artist includes the full text of the posting within the illustration itself.  Blackall’s art work conveys the wistfulness and whimsy of these brief missives:  “Butterflies @ the Museum of Natural History — W4M [woman for man] — Not just those on show, you know that, right?” pictures the graceful forms of a man and a woman with butterflies dancing about them, and giant butterflies superimposed where their faces should be, like some beautifully surreal Magritte painting.  “Hot Toll Collector — M4W [man for woman] — 35 (Outerbridge)  I complimented you on your new look today.  Hope you see this.  I was too shy.  The $8 was well worth it, & always is when you’re there,” shows an attractive young toll collector, who’s wearing a conical orange Pinocchio-length nose, which looks suspiciously similar to the bright orange traffic cone beside her booth.  Part of the fun of Blackall’s illustrations are the unexpected turns that her imagination takes.  She depicts each “missed connection” with both humor and hope.

Readers looking for something different should try Missed Connections.  These offbeat and fanciful page-long love letters encapsulate the joy and sorrow of love lost — and sometimes found — in a haiku picture form.

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