Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Every time I find a book written by Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi longstocking and many more titles, including the two mentioned by Violet, Mio of Mio and the Lionheart brothers ( I checked them out,yes, and now I have to get my hands on them!), as I was saying, every time I find one of her books, and it happens that I find them in several different languages and various editions, at a surprisingly frequent rate,they are pricy. They are rare and pricy. The early editions anyway. The scary stuff doesn't surprise me really if we think that the legacy she shares is made by authors like Grimm brothers, or Perrault ( bluebeard!)and all the rest of them, with
stories that all the major professors and psychologists, and pedagogists, and intellectuals analysed and came to the conclusion that they help us, children,to come to terms with the toughness of life. Then uncle Walt came around and did the opposite! Thank goodness the little marmaid doesn't feel the knives in her feet every time she walks with her brand new feet. Although in all fairness,had Disney only stuck to the original version, all the little girls,now full grown women would have faced the life-long pain that their favourite shoes inflict upon/below them, with much more endurance and knowledge.
My grand-ma carefully executed the same "operation safety" Disney did, when she used to tell me the synopsis of the major Operas and Operettas. So ,for example, when she would tell me the story of La Traviata, Verdi, taken from Dumas, La dame aux camelias, Violetta of course does not die and she certainly doesn't belong to any different social class, but happily marries the love of her life. Considering the fact that in practically 80% of the Operas, the heroine tragically dies and that almost all the Disney's happy endings camouflage a tragedy, I reached the conclusion that life is almost never what we remember it should have been!
And speaking of memory: two good books I came accross with that tackle the memory issue
The Sea, John Banville, where the memory of the past becomes another type of present that unfolds along in a parallel dimension, and A short history of tractors in ukrainian, Marina Lewycka, that helps me remember that learning about the past by reading fiction is fun and effective.
Gianduiotti: are you comfortable in that chair? Every time I go say hi to Davide, owner of the bookstore Therese, in Torino, Italy,I learn a lot. He is the prototype of the old bookseller, but in a young body, he has passion, he believes in the true meaning of community,he is kind,he knows what he sells, he reads a lot and he keeps it small and simple. And he his in your neighborhood!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

more of more

Before I get lost on the web looking for more information on Mio by Mio and the Lionheart Brothers I have some more good stuff to show off here:
An artist grows up in Mexico, by Leah Brenner, with illustrations by Diego Rivera ( Frida's gigantic husband). This is a collection of stories depicting mexican atmospheres during the days immediately preceding the revolution.The life of imaginary artist Rancho Pacheco and his adventures growing up.

And two cute kids book , finely illustrated: The Sooner hound , by Harvey Weiss, a tale from the american folklore .The hero is a shabby mutt that has a tornado for a mother and a bolt of lightning for a father and can run very fast!
The tiger's whisker, 31 stories from many far easter countriessuch as Korea, Myanmar, Japan and the Pacific Islands.

And since we are on a children illustrations theme i have to refer you to a great, fresh, superbly imaginative artist's work: Beatrice Alemagna, author and illustrator, one capable of making you look at a kid's book the way you used to when you were a child. A true gem. Check out her blog.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

more finds at the fair

the Gosta Berling saga, by Nobel laureate Selma Lagerlof , this edition appears to be in german. She is from the upper side of Europe, almost Lappland and her imagination and the folk resources she draws from are very Scandinavian. Although I cannot say much about this saga, besides the fact that evolves around the eccentricities of the upper class, what made me familiar with her existence was another book she wrote later, The wonderful adventures of Nils Holgerssons, a kids book she wrote as a sort of geographic text book for schools. However, when I read it, I did not detect any academic tone whatsoever and it didn't help me geographically either, but I can say with confidence it is one of the most magic and evocative pieces of young adult literature that to this day I remember with fondness and gratitude.

Birds and beasts,by William Jay Smith,with woodcuts by Jacques Hnizdovsky. The poems are cute and simple, the woodcuts I wich I had gigantic posters to put up all over the house. The artist emigrated from Bohemia to America in the 1900's and his first book named Flora Exotica is another one I would decorate schools' walls with. Here some examples

Thursday, October 7, 2010

habemus papam

There are three books by the newly elected king of literature on the shelf,
Mario Vargas Llosa, whom I'm never sure where to file under: V? L? , like Garcia Marquez, G? M?,
I wonder how long they are going to sit there for. Doris Lessing, last year's elected queen, hasn't moved once I must say, so, either people don't really follow Nobel Prizing stuff, or it is a not so popular title in the literature field as it sounds:"I won the nobel prize last year" " oh that? phiuh good luck with that".
Mrs Lessing 's reaction to the announcement of the prize by the journalist is memorable, she was coming back home from her rounds and they were waiting for her on her doorsteps and found her completely oblivious to the news.I recommend a search on youtube for it, she is pure class. I wonder how did Mr Llosa and Mr Varga respond. We'll see, maybe he shook his own hands.
In the meantime, some other kind of race happened you remember the gold digging adventures of book hunting in the jungle of the donated books set by the Seattle library?
yep, that one. I had to submit myself to the torture of looking for books without having fun again. This time around I managed to have a little fun,though cause I was in good company and left all my expectations outside the door.And this is what I found:

this is a first translated edition, 1934, by M.D. Herter Norton (what is with all these double names!) and when I found it, I made a little shrill that sounded more as if somebody had stepped on my toe rather than happiness. It was happiness, especially cause it reminded me of an exhibition I witnessed in Bologna ,Italy, during my college years, entirely dedicated to Rilke's love correspondence with Lou Andreas Salome, a Russian psychoanalyst of increadible charisma and who broke few hearts and was a very close friend of people like Freud and Nietzsche. The exchange of written words that those two,both of them married to other people, entertained is the most passionate thing I've ever read.

This little green book jumped at me because of its beautiful cover. The Mabinogion-Everyman's library- 11 Welsh stories drawn from the Celtic tradition of Medieval European literature, stories written between 1300 and 1400.

Ivan Goncharov -Oblomov , also a everyman's library edition #878, translated by Natalie Duddington,was another happy discovery that tossed me back in time again, when I went to see the theatrical representation of the book that notoriously starts the first 150 pages with the guy not getting out of his bed, and I remember wishing having a pillow there with me. I will read this classic of Russian literature, one day, without even skipping the first few pages ,because I think our times have a lot in common with the times the writer is describing: the aristocratic inertia of a decadent social class, the aristocracy, surrounded and completely oblivious of it, by the daily struggle of the rest of the world.