In the excitement, something fell from Pobble’s pocket and landed on the snowy leaves.
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In the excitement, something fell from Pobble’s pocket and landed on the snowy leaves.
Get sticky with Matty as he has an adventure in Too Much Glue. Click here for a sneak peek of the book.
Glue raindrops, not puddles!
When I was growing up, our tradition was that we always got at least one book for Christmas, and those were some of my most treasured gifts. I still remember the Christmas that I got an anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories, and I sat next to the Christmas tree and spent a pleasant couple of hours reading. Giving children books as gifts helps to reinforce that books are something special and to encourage a love of reading. Here are some sources that can help you find the perfect book as a gift for the child in your life:
I had the most inspiring, enlightening, empowering, and yes, fun, weekend. That's right — I was at Kidlitcon 2013 Austin, or as Sherry Early called it, the "Austin Kindred Spirits KidLit conference."
Kidlitcon has always been a small conference, and that's part of its appeal. This year was even smaller in terms of attendance numbers than the last few, but what it lacked in size it made up for in heart, spirit, and community. I felt that the smaller size was an advantage; I think I talked to everyone there at some point, and all of us there formed such a strong connection.
It would be impossible to try to recap everything about the conference, so I'm just going to hit some of the highlights. For more recaps of Kidlitcon, see the round-up post on the Kidlitosphere.org website.
And finally, I wanted to leave you with a thought from Lee Wind that I can't stop thinking about. I feel like this one idea profoundly affected my thinking:
Last Friday, at the pre-con leading up to Kidlitcon, I met author P.J. Hoover, and I took the chance to interview her about her new book, Solstice, and her writing life. This post was also used as an example of the techniques I taught in my Kidlitcon session, "Don’t fear the code: spice up your blog with HTML and CSS."
“Let’s ground her awhile-” “For a week-” “Maybe two-” “On a boring old island, with nothing to do.”
Carla brought weird sandwiches to school.
So it's just a little over a week until Kidlitcon and I'm psyched! I'm looking forward to hanging out with the tribe and talking some good kidlit. Oh, and I'm leading a session! I'm going to be teaching some cool tricks for using HTML and CSS to enhance your blog posts! Don't worry - you don't need to be a techie to attend my session; in fact, I'm specifically planning this with the assumption that no one attending my session has ever used HTML (although if you have, you might still learn something!) I hope that everyone attending my session will leave with a sense of just how FUN this stuff can be!
BUT - if you're thinking about attending my session, I have HOMEWORK for you! "Whaaaaa?... I didn't know there was going to be homework," I hear you say. But this is going to be fun, help the cause of kidlit, and hopefully leave you with a great, shiny blog post you can show off.
Because this session is hands-on, you need to have a blog post to work on. Rather than just having you make up a nonsense post just for the class, I want you to have a real post to play with. The interview format will be perfect for what I have in mind, so I ask everyone who is thinking of attending my session to find an author (or another blogger) at Kidlitcon and do a short interview sometime before Breakout Session #4. It doesn't have to be a long interview; two or three questions will be sufficient. If you're going to the precon, that will probably be a perfect opportunity, but just try to do it (and type it up in draft) sometime before the session. If you know someone who will be attending, you could even do it remotely before the conference, but I want your subject to be another Kidlitcon attendee.
Also, if you will have one with you, please bring a tablet or laptop to the session! If you don't have one, you can still attend, but you won't be able to do the hands-on part. A phone might work, but I suspect it will be too difficult to do it on a phone, and I'm not sure the blog editors will let you work in source code on a phone.
If you're still on the fence about attending Kidlitcon, get yourself over to the site and register! The deadline to register is this Friday! You won't be sorry, I promise you. If you need more convincing, check out these posts from MotherReader, Jen Robinson, Kelly Jensen, and Leila Roy. Also see the schedule and partial list of attendees.
See you in Austin!
Writing exclusively for our #PenguinCooks series, the Consider the Fork author takes us on a tour of her kitchen, and the utensils she can't do without (even if they're being used in ways you may not expect.)
Potato mashers, I find, are fairly useless for mashing potatoes. It doesn’t matter whether they are the sort that look like bent spatulas or the ones that resemble a griddle with a handle attached. Unless the potatoes have been cooked to watery oblivion – in which case the mash won’t be good, anyway – there are always some lumps that get missed. As you chase them round the pan, the potato gets overworked and turns gluey. The potato ricer is far superior. It gives you lump-free mash every time. It’s also a satisfying thing to use, as the potato falls through the metal disk in a cloud of white specks.
Yet, I somehow hang on to my potato masher, which remains in my overstuffed utensil jar alongside wooden spoons and tongs, rice paddles and strainers. Maybe it’s because, as with so much else in my kitchen, it reminds me of my mother. And, making a cake one day, I made the happy discovery that while not very effective for mashing potatoes, it is a simply brilliant device for mashing bananas.
Our kitchens teem with objects whose best use was never imagined by the manufacturers. Someone told me recently that they use a melon baller for getting the hard bit out of pear cores. My rolling pin gets used for everything from opening coconuts to bashing praline to smithereens. One of my favourite American food magazines, Cook’s Illustrated, prints endless reader’s tips along these lines. For example, use a corkscrew for a ‘safer way to pit avocado’! Or 'organise your herbs and spices in an over-the-door shoe organiser'!
Though comical, I admire the can-do spirit of these improvised techniques. In a funny way, they are true to the original spirit of inventiveness that gave us all the kitchen utensils we now depend on. When I was researching my book Consider the Fork, I started to see that even technologies as obvious as a fork for eating with or a pot for boiling, were not always with us. It took lateral thinking from the first people who adopted cooking pots to think it was worth experimenting with protecting food from the blast of the fire with clay. I like to think it’s the same sort of creative mindset that looks at a chopstick and sees the perfect tool for unjamming coffeebeans stuck in a grinder.
Bee Wilson is the author of Consider the Fork: A History of How we Cook and Eat, available now in paperback. Bee also writes the highly popular Kitchen Thinker column for The Sunday Telegraph's Stella magazine, for which she has been named food journalist of the year three times by the Guild of Food Writers. Find Bee on Twitter here.Add a Comment
When Mom brought home a stray one day, Dad said, “That creature cannot stay.”
Charlie Parker, Penguin and foodie, explores the notion of nostalgic dishes, "vintage food" and some rather lovely old cookbooks in the second of our Penguin Cooks series. Bon appétit.
There is something to be said about the nature of a recipe. It can become a family heirloom - passed down from generation-to-generation. Sometimes it’s an object of pride – “no-one can make it like my grandmother makes it”. Other times an object of awe – as in the awe experienced when attempting to make one of Adriano Zumbo’s macaron recipes.
I recently stumbled upon my Great Nan’s recipe notebook – dog-eared and stained. It contained cuttings of classic recipes such as 'Kidney and bacon bake' and 'Lamb's tongues in cider'. This particular heirloom, along with my Nan’s vintage Raleigh, is something I will treasure forever.
My partner also has his mum’s recipe notebook from which we get wonderful North American classics such as pancakes and Ukrainian classics like beet borscht. These enter the canon of our weekly cooking, and get their own place in our recipe books (with additions and tweaks that make them our own).
All this nostalgia got me thinking about "vintage food”: the garishly photographed recipe books of the 60s, tattered old preserves books, old French cooking books. All relevant again and making their way onto foodie bookshelves and blogs in their droves, Julia Childs and Elizabeth David household names once more. I remember when I was first introduced to Julia Childs via YouTube – “the gateway to French soufflés and cakes” indeed - what a revelation!
Here are a few blog posts that have praised some vintage recipes, taken from Penguin cookbooks. Firstly, we dip into The Pauper's Cookbook by Jocasta Innes with posts from That Lefty Food Blog (dealing mainly with soups) and The Vintage Cookbook Trials (also, incidentally, soup lovers).Make, do and mend culture translates into food – people are pickling, canning and jamming. It seems to be less about making food last longer and go further than about learning a new skill, but then perhaps many of those city-dwelling cooks are saving cash by stocking up their pickle cupboards ready for the year to come.
It probably says something about “vintage food” culture that Penguin published the Great Food Series in 2011 – and I have to say, along with the second hand Elizabeth David books, this collection is sitting proudly on the shelf at home.Add a Comment
Maia Bloomfield Cucchiara’s Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities considers the relationship between private markets and public education by focusing on Philadelphia’s Center City Schools Initiative. The Initiative targeted (largely white) middle- and upper-middle class families living in a recently gentrified downtown neighborhood and adopted a slick marketing campaign to convince these residents to elect (and thus, invest in) a series of hand-selected local public elementary schools. Hoping that the Initiative would result in an increase of both property tax revenue and personal investment these schools, proponents saw a viable link between a revitalized downtown and what would become an improved public school system. The problem? The School District of Philadelphia continues to face its worst-ever financial crisis, replete with layoffs, school closures, and program cuts. And those seats in the City Center elementary schools? Turns out they weren’t empty. As Cucchiara reports in a piece at the Atlantic drawn from the book’s research:
The marketing worked: According to my analysis of School District of Philadelphia data, by 2009 the number of Center City children enrolled in first grade in the three most desirable public schools had increased by 60 percent, from 111 to 177. Through fundraising and the activation of social and professional networks, these new families helped bring resources to the schools, including new playgrounds, libraries, and arts programs. But these Center City children weren’t taking empty slots. When they enrolled, they left fewer spots for low-income students from North and West Philadelphia, who had for years used those schools to escape failing ones in their neighborhoods. During this period, the number of first graders in Center City schools from outside the neighborhood decreased by 42 percent, from 64 to 37. Not surprisingly, this shift had racial dimensions: The percentage of white students in these schools in the early grades increased by 30 percent, and the percentage of African American students decreased a corresponding 29 percent.
Cucchiara goes on to address the grounds that on which these issues take root: “Americans have long accepted two aspects of the present education system as a fact of life. First, we are resigned to the idea that urban schools will always have financial struggles. Second, we do not discuss the divisions between city and suburbs.” You needn’t look far to uncover more of this troubling history: Boston, Chicago, and Detroit are well-evidenced examples. Asking us to question to viability of this institutional wall between city and suburb, Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities points to the problem inherent in funding around this divide: it’s fundamentally inequitable and attempting to recruit middle-class families is neither going to solve nor prevent the next public educational crisis.
As the Cucchiara concludes at the Atlantic, “Indeed, by singling out the middle-class for special treatment, they could end up creating even more unequal systems.”Add a Comment
The first in a series of Penguin Cooks blogs, here one of our resident food experts, Pen Vogler, tells us a little about the food featured in some of Jane Austen's earliest works.
Next year, Jane Austen’s juvenilia will be published in Penguin Classics for the first time. It may seem odd to be trumpeting this on a food blog, but the young writer delighted in culinary obsessions. Foremost of foodies in the juvenilia is Charlotte Luttrell of Lesley Castle (written when Jane was 16) who, broiling, roasting and baking her sister’s wedding feast, is appalled to hear of the groom’s life-threatening accident; "Good God!" (said I) "you don't say so? Why what in the name of Heaven will become of all the Victuals?” Her sister is too afflicted to even eat a chicken wing.
The Georgian dinner table hosted some strange dishes and I wonder if the vile-sounding “fried Cowheel & Onion” which comes in her lampoon, The Visit, was a riposte to some adult attempt to make her eat it. A more acceptable treat is joked about by the twelve-year-old Jane whose The Beautifull Cassandra, “proceeded to a Pastry-cooks where she devoured six ices, refused to pay for them, knocked down the Pastry cook and walked away.”
Even I baulk at fried cow’s heel, but I have had a lovely time cooking my way through dishes that Jane mentions in her novels and letters. As a young woman, left in charge of the housekeeping, she writes with relish about ordering braised ox-cheek and indeed it is gorgeous; melty and tender and just the thing for a cold day.
Brought up, as she was, on meat from her father’s livestock, ‘haricot mutton’ is another Austen favourite that deserves to be restored to the contemporary table. And who wouldn’t agree with her that “Good apples pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness”.
Dinner with Mr Darcy: Recipes inspired by the novels and letters of Jane Austen is published by Cico books, £16.99 in hardback.
Pen Vogler is the editor of Penguin's Great Food series. If you enjoyed the above, read more on her blog, Pen's Great Food Club, where she describes cooking with recipes from history. For more foodie updates, follow her on Twitter / @penfrompenguin
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What better way to celebrate than reading Maya Was Grumpy. Grumps Unite! Enjoy the full pdf here.
“That’s just silly,” Maya grumbled.
Congrats due to author Claudia L. Johnson, whose Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures garnered the Christian Gauss Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Johnson, the Murray Professor of English Literature at Princeton University, a specialist in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century literature, with a particular emphasis on the novel, is also the author of Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel and Equivocal Beings: Politics, Gender, and Sentimentality in the 1790s—Wollstonecraft, Radcliffe, Burney, Austen, both of which we were fortunate enough to publish.
Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures
A quick description from the citation:
The Christian Gauss Award is offered for books in the field of literary scholarship or criticism. The prize was established in 1950 to honor the late Christian Gauss, the distinguished Princeton University scholar, teacher and dean who also served as President of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Other previous award winners have included books written by eminent authors such as Harold Bloom, Christopher Benfey, and Marjorie Garber.
Johnson’s book considers the transformation of Jane Austen, sort of well-heeled nineteenth-century author of six novels, into “Jane Austen,” the figure whose silhouette adorns greeting cards sent by your grandmother, who introduced most of the American public to Colin Firth and spawned her own Wikipedia sub-page, “Jane Austen in popular culture.” Johnson attests that for Austenites, the very concept of “Jane Austen” encapsulates powerful ideas and feelings about history, class, manners, intimacy, language, and the everyday. By carefully tracing how and why new generations of readers continue to claim Austen and her characters for all sorts of purposes—never replicated and always venerated?—Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures helps uncover fresh insights and new possibilities for Plain Jane.
Congrats, Claudia!Add a Comment
After this Sunday, October 13, Hyde Park will never be the same. Jack Cella, the general manager of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore for the past 43 years, will retire after helping the store transform from a locally centered cooperative to the nation’s premier scholarly bookstore, with more 50,000 members and three locations. It would be nearly impossible to exaggerate the depth and breadth of Cella’s contribution to the culture of scholarly publishing and to this remarkable institution, and in turn, his value to the Hyde Park community, and especially to the University of Chicago Press.
From our promotions director Levi Stahl:
Being a regular at a bookstore is one of life’s great pleasures. And what you want above all—your reward for being a regular—is good company: you go to the store to talk with the people there, to find out what they’ve been doing and seeing (and of course reading), to hear what they’ve spotted that they think you might like, to catch up on the flood of new books you’d otherwise miss.
What you want is to talk to Jack Cella. It’s almost impossible to leave a conversation with Jack—quiet, understated, serious, friendly Jack—without a new book if not in hand then at least in mind. His awareness is astonishing: he doesn’t just separate the wheat from the chaff, he goes on to parcel it out perfectly to the people he knows will appreciate it most. Retirement suits readers, and no one would begrudge Jack his, but he’ll be greatly missed. Just as there’s no store quite like the Seminary Co-op, there’s no bookseller quite like Jack.
Similarly, its no understatement to quote UCP author Bruce Lincoln, who said of Cella, “He’s built the best bookstore in the U.S. and maybe beyond. He’s a treasure, and his institution is a treasure. I hope it will thrive without him, though it’s hard to imagine it without him.”
Cella certainly has impacted numerous lives through his endeavor, and Rodney Powell, editor of our film and cinema studies list, is one of them. As manager at 57th St. Books for nearly a decade, Powell wrote a send-off worthy of the man whose “vast storehouse of knowledge have come to symbolize the culture of the Co-op and what members value most about it.” It follows after the jump.
Yes, there they were, in the e-mail of October 1 from the Board of the Seminary Co-op: words that I had not expected to see in my lifetime: “Now that the Co-op is settled into its wonderful new space, Jack will be leaving on October 13.”
Jack leaving? When I had expected him to outlive me and pass away at his desk while checking out the information for a special order? Say it isn’t so!
Well, hardcore fans of the Seminary Co-op will have to accept the fact, and even though we know the Co-op will continue in all its eminence in its “wonderful new space,” we know it won’t be the same without Jack.
And of course it could not be— institutions change as personnel change. But it’s hard not to wax sentimental about Jack. Although he would be the first to downplay his own contribution, we also know—not to take away anything from the many others who have contributed to the Co-op’s success—that Jack has been its principal architect. Certainly that success could only be achieved in a community that loves books and shows its love by supporting such a bookstore. But without Jack’s unwavering commitment to making the Co-op one of the world’s best, it wouldn’t have happened.
However, to avoid the sentimental, I want to emphasize something other than Jack’s almost legendary modesty—his steely resolve to get things done despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I have some first-hand knowledge of that resolve because I was the manager of 57th St. Books when it opened in 1983 (and for about a dozen years thereafter); I was in on both the planning and working out of the plans for that enterprise, as well as the day-to-day operations that make or break any business.
So Jack was my boss—and in his own quiet way quite a tough cookie. That is, you didn’t want to disappoint him, to not do what he expected. And, of course, since he worked more than anybody else, whining about too much to do wouldn’t go very far, even if sympathy was expressed.
As I reflect on this quality after all these years, it seems to me analogous to the ruthlessness that artists must have about doing their work—you get it done, period. Think about the conclusion of Stephen Sondheim’s great song from Sunday in the Park with George, “Finishing the Hat”:
That however you live,
There’s a part of you always standing by,
Mapping out the sky,
Finishing a hat…
Starting on a hat…
Finishing a hat…
Look I made a hat…
Where there never was a hat.
Thank you, Jack, for making the hat that has served not only Hyde Park, but also a community of readers and scholars around the world, so well for so many years. Your will and work made it possible. Our best thanks for your efforts will be to treasure and maintain this remarkable institution, difficult as that will be after you leave.
Ave atque vale!Add a Comment
Graham Nash visited Penguin Towers recently, the Penguin Blog was lucky enough to sit down with him and hear, from the man himself, about the 10 songs that mean the most to him. Graham recorded this as an audio interview, but we thought we'd share it with you here so you can listen to the songs as you read.
This post is in Graham's words. We hope you like it. Happy listening.
1. The first song I’d like to talk about is Be-Bop-A-Lula by Gene Vincent. An amazing, amazing record, recorded 2-track at Capital Records. One of the reasons I joined Capital Records personally, apart from all the financial stuff that went on between my managers and the record company, was that I would join if they would leave me in the studio with the original two-track of Gene Vincent’s Be-Bop-A-Lula. It was the very first record I ever bought and unfortunately the day after I bought it I sat on it. It was a '78 and of course it shattered. Anyway, this is Be-Bop-A-Lula by Gene Vincent.
2. I was once talking to John Lennon about great rock’n’roll songs. And he and I both agreed that Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis was undeniably a great, great rock’n’roll song.
3. One of my personal favourite groups of course, is The Everly Brothers. I’ll never forget what their music did to me when I was fifteen years old, I was enthralled by their sound, by their harmony. I know they were brothers and I know they came from Kentucky but they had this unbelievable blend. In 1992 in Toledo, Ohio, I was in my hotel room and the phone rang. It was Phil Everly and he was talking to me. I said "Why are you talking to me in Toledo, Ohio?" And he said, “Well, you’re doing the show at the place that we’re going to play tonight. Would you like to come to the show?” So I went down with The Everly Brothers in their bus, to the venue. We had that rubber chicken at 5 o'clock after soundcheck that most rock’n’roll bands have and Don Everly looked at me and said “OK. What are you gonna sing with us?” And you know, I’m dying inside, it’s been my dream to sing with The Everly Brothers, and I have a cassette of me singing So Sad with The Everly Brothers and it thrills me to this day. So let’s play So Sad.
4. After World War II when 14 and 15 year old kids had nothing to do but kick a ball around, Lonnie Donnegan came into our lives on the BBC and Saturday Club on Saturday Morning. He was very influential with us because he provided a form of music that we could afford. If you had a cheap acoustic guitar and a washboard then you could put thimbles on your fingers and replicate the drums, and have a tea chest with a broom handle and a piece of string for the bass, and you could actually make decent music. So let’s play Rock Island Line by Lonnie Donegan.
5. There was a movie out when I was a kid, it was called Blackboard Jungle. Part of the musical track was this song by Bill Haley & The Comets called Rock Around The Clock. A few days before my fifteenth birthday, Bill Haley came to Manchester and I got tickets for me and Alan Clarke. We sat in the front row of the balcony and were absolutely blown away by the energy of The Comets. So why don’t we play, Rock Around The Clock.
6. I’m a lover of harmony. I mean it’s very obvious – I was in The Hollies, a great harmony band; Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds were both great harmony bands, but The Beach Boys were something else. I truly love this song, this is one of the finest songs on record. By The Beach Boys, it's God Only Knows.
7. I’d like to be a little selfish here. When Stephen Stills first played me Suite Judy Blue Eyes I couldn’t believe what a great song it was. It was 7.5 minutes, it was in four movements; a brilliant, brilliant song.
8. After I joined David and Stephen I kind of put The Hollies into the back of mind. You certainly don’t talk to your new girlfriend about your old girlfriend, you know, you just don’t do that. And so I spent many years kind of pushing them away in my mind. But recently, for the last 10 years I’ve been listening to The Hollies and, man, we were a fine band! Good harmonies, great energy. I remember this particular song because we had a manager, Michael Cohen. And he said to us one day, “I have this neighbour, this friend of mine, and she says that her son writes songs. Do me a favour - she keeps bugging me - why don’t you do down and just check out this kid.” So we went to this house and there’s this fourteen or fifteen year old kid and, you know, we were The Hollies! And we knew we were The Hollies. And I said “OK kid, what have you got?” And he said, “I’ve got this song and it goes like this…” *sings first lines of Bus Stop* And we knew The Hollies could cut a great record of it. So this is Bus Stop.
9. One day [David] Crosby told me that he had just come from a session at Abbey Road with The Beatles and they pushed two giant speakers left and right, opposite each ear, sat him in a chair, and David Crosby was one of the first people ever to hear this song: A Day In The Life.
10. I’ve always been a tenacious man. I don’t give up easily. When I’m committed to something I do it with all my heart. This is a wonderful, wonderful song that we should all listen to and take to heart, this is Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel.Add a Comment
There are only about five more days to nominate for the Cybils Awards, and while there are some great books nominated, I'm surprised at some of the books released in the last year that haven't been nominated yet. If you haven't nominated yet, here are some suggestions for books that you might want to nominated in the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category. I don't have the patience to compile a comprehensive list like Charlotte's Library's amazing lists for Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction, (here and here) so these are just some books that I'd like to see nominated. Some of them I've read, but most I haven't read yet, but would like to. Don't forget that the deadline to nominate is October 15 at 11:59pm (Pacific). More information on how to nominate is on the Cybils blog, and please do read the eligibility rules and category descriptions!
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Have you ever built a fort in your living room out of toys and blankets, what about in your backyard with wood and nails? In celebration of the release of The Fort on Fourth Street: A Story of the Six Simple Machines, we are encouraging students to get creative and enter to win a prize pack of books and gift certificates.
Each group should carefully read the contest packet and begin to dream up your very own fort! Check out the book homepage http://www.sylvandellpublishing.com/bookpage.php?id=FortFourth and the For Creative Minds pages to gather your plan.
Submissions are open! Please either email your submission to HeatherWilliams (at) Sylvandellpublishing.com or mail to
Sylvan Dell Publishing
612 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. Suite A2
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
Deborah Solomon’s American Mirror: The Life and Work of Norman Rockwell takes on the touted icon of American normalcy with a bit of a charge—paralleling the illustrator’s rise at the Saturday Evening Post with the unraveling of his marriages (some occasioned by loss) and his close friendships with other men. By the time the artist was invited to dinner with the Eisenhowers, he was deeply engaged in therapy with Erik Erikson. There are lots more anecdotes from Solomon over at the Smithsonian Magazine, including a bit about Andy Warhol’s fascination with and attendance at Rockwell’s first, late-in-life gallery show.
Before there was Solomon’s biography, there was Richard Halpern’s Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence, which argues that that the sense of innocence we locate in Rockwell’s work arises from our reluctance—and also Rockwell’s—to acknowledge its often disturbing dimensions (lust, desire, voyeurism, perversion), even though these acts remain more or less hidden in plain sight. As Halpern notes:
“To lay my cards on the table right away: the kinds of material that Rockwell’s work both exposes and disavows are to no small degree sexual in nature. The claim that forms of sexuality, often perverse, find a place in so wholesome and apparently innocent a figure as Rockwell maybe prove shocking and repellant to some of this more traditionally minded fans. It may be tempting to defend against the idea by chalking it up to the perversity of the interpreter, namely me, or to certain obsessions inherent in Freudian thinking itself. I counsel only patience and an open mind while I make my case. Individual readers may then decide whether, and to what degree, the case is convincing. This is not, in any event, an exercise in orthodox Freudianism, since I often criticize or modify Freud’s thinking. Freud offers nothing more than an initial way into Rockwell—a useful starting point for thought, not its goal. My argument relies not on psychoanalytic dogma bu ton a careful attention lavished upon the images themselves. My reading of Rockwell aims to be, in the end, a Rockwellian rather than a Freudian one. At the same time I feel that Rockwell and Freud are, in certain respects, kindred spirits—unrelenting analysis of the self and culture who often pose similar kinds of questions.”
Halpern’s book is worth a look if you’re interested in exploring this deviously brilliant artist and want to further consider the complexities of his treatment of young boys and women, the displacement of guilt and humiliation found in his portrayal of courtship and marriage, and the “repudiated underbelly” of his happy, painted world.Add a Comment
Victor Brombert is the Henry Putnam University Professor Emeritus of Romance and Comparative Literatures at Princeton University. He is also an escapee of German-occupied France and a veteran of the Second World War; a scholar of comparative narrative studies and the history of ideas; the author of more than a dozen books; former president of the Modern Language Association and of the Association of Literary Studies; a Fulbright Fellow, a National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellow, a two-time Guggenheim Fellow, a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, and is Commandeur des Palmes Académiques.
Death is a theme that has preoccupied Brombert at least as long as his youth: first, as the opening pages of his latest book Musings on Mortality alerts us, following the death of his pet canary, and later in the wake of his experiences during World War II. The liner notes read something like, death can be found all around us, but the literature we produce is on the side of life. In the book, Brombert takes on Coetzee, Bassani, Camus, Kafka, Woolf, Thomas Mann, and Primo Levi, among others, in order to ground the works of these writers in the philosophical complaints of the human condition, most notably their meditations on mortality.
From a recent review in the Times Higher Education:
Brombert begins with his childhood and the death of a beloved canary and quickly proceeds, along a widening autobiographical trajectory, to the death of his sister Nora and the deaths of his parents, to war, to the death camp in Auschwitz, to the visceral fear he experienced as a soldier at Omaha Beach. Beloved things become alien and feared, whether it is the one enlarged pore he notices on his dead father’s face or the “trains I so loved in my childhood, and continue to love in their remembered glory” which enter into “sinister associations” with wartime Europe. He begins, under the influence of André Malraux, to understand that in the face of encroaching death it is “art and the love of art” that allow us “to negate our nothingness.” Towards the end of the book he argues convincingly that “literature commemorates what death has undone.”
An excerpt from Musings on Mortality: From Tolstoy to Primo Levi:
Does Tolstoy, in his late years, load the dice for the sake of teaching a moral lesson? Does he leave room for any ambivalence, for any genuine irony? Edward Wasiolek reported years ago that his students, fed on Henry James’s belief that reality had myriad forms, used to complain that Tolstoy’s famous novella The Death of Ivan Ilych was arbitrary, preachy, painfully lacking in ambiguity and “levels of meaning.”
The Death of Ivan Ilych (1886) is in fact deceptively simple. Written years after War and Peace and Anna Karenina, this powerful narrative about dying and death is remarkable for its brevity, its succinctness, its ordinariness. The narrator himself comments on this apparent banality at the beginning of the story: “Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary, and therefore most terrible.” The tragic dimension of this work is thus from the outset attributed to a very common life experience. The title itself provides obvious signals: “Ivan Ilych.” It is hard to imagine a more remarkable first name and patronymic. It is like calling the protagonist John Smith or Everyman. And nothing could be more common or widespread than death, the first substantive of the title, a word that in Russian comes bluntly without a definite article, a reminder of a stark and generalized human condition, so generalized indeed as to exclude uniqueness.
All of us, Tolstoy might say, cherish the illusion that we are unique. Ivan Ilych recalls that in school he had learned from a textbook the syllogistic formula “Caius is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal.” But what logically applied to Caius and to all the Caiuses of this world did not apply to him. He was special, after all—or so he had felt until now. He was not Caius; he was Ivan, or Vanya, as his mother used to cal him, and a very special Vanya at that. But, now that his body is failing and the terror of death has become a daily reality, he can no longer avoid staring into the face of a common destiny. In this new awareness of common law, a common doom, he feels more lonely than ever. As he lies on his deathbed, he hears the sounds of merriment in his household, the sounds of singing and laughter. He almost chokes with anger: “but they will die too! Fools! I first, and they later.” For they too will have to recognize the truth of the terrible law.
Tolstoy knew that fear and trembling remain supremely personal, that the discovery of death is made in utter solitude. Yet the sense of dereliction also comes with an awareness of a common destiny and a common humanity. Ivan Ilych is not a tragic figure. He is no King Lear; but in his illness, like Lear driven mad, he discovers that he too is not “ague-proof,” that the hand his courtiers used to kiss smells of mortality.
The crucial question for Tolstoy is how we face this revelation, what it tells us about the way we have lived. Ivan Ilych learns—the lesson may come too late—that emptiness, self-deception, and false values have been at the core of his life, that in the process of living we all deny the truth of our human condition, that we lie to ourselves when we pretend to forget about death, and that this lie is intimately bound up with all the other lies that vitiate our moral being. It is a denunciation of a spiritual world.
To read more about Musings on Mortality go here.Add a Comment
A piece on Terrence Malick’s latest film To the Wonder appeared shortly after its release this April at New York Magazine‘s online site Vulture. Nothing about the title of the piece need grab you at first engagement—though “Radiant Zigzag Becoming: How Terrence Malick and His Team Constructed To the Wonder” is elegiac and ponderous and a bit of a mouthful, not unlike the reputation of Malick’s oeuvre. What ends up fascinating in this article—besides lines we like such as, “the film has struck some as a particularly Malick-y Terrence Malick film”—is the breakdown of that radiant zigzag becoming, which the writer traces to a scholarly introduction penned for an edition of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded, a tawdry Stockholm Syndrome-done-good epistolary novel that shocked and awed its eighteenth-century readers. The Intro was written by our own Margaret A. Doody, the John and Barbara Glynn Family Professor of Literature at Notre Dame and a specialist in Restoration and eighteenth-century British literature.
The relevant connection to Doody’s work?
One odd but telling reference point Malick gave his editors was Margaret A. Doody’s introduction to the Penguin Books edition of Samuel Richardson’s revolutionary 1740 novel Pamela. In the intro, Doody discusses the fact that Richardson’s novel, which unfolds as a series of letters, presents an internalized narrative that appears, on the surface, to lack any and all artifice. “He loves the formless, the radiant zigzag becoming,” Doody writes, and the phrase “radiant zigzag becoming” soon became an unofficial motto for the film, representing its constant sense of movement and the fact that the characters’ relationships seem to always be in flux.
For less radiant zigzag becoming and more screwball ancient whodunit, stay tuned for Doody’s Aristotle Detective novels this spring. Until then, more info about the series can be found here.
(H/T Alan Thomas via Margaret Doody via Fred Rush)Add a Comment
Actual page from a program distributed by the University of Notre Dame at the Michigan State–Notre Dame game on September 21, 2013, with FEATURED ACADEMIC Julia V. Douthwaite, professor of French and Francophone studies and expert on the French Enlightenment, the Revolution, and French–English relations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—
From Douthwaite’s The Frankenstein of 1790 and Other Lost Chapters from Revolutionary France:
Consider a Juicy Couture print advertisement of 2010. A Marie Antoinette look-alike with an enormous pink hairdo stares out at viewers dolefully. She is cradling, with one hand, a huge bottle of perfume that has a bird perched on top, and gesturing suggestively, with her other hand, to her nether parts. This portrait’s subtle repurposing of the Greuze painting Jeune Fille qui pleure son oiseau mort (1765) or the eighteenth-century motif of a girl lamenting her pet bird’s demise or escape (read her lost virginity) makes a provocative commentary on the queen’s rumored promiscuity while inviting consumers to try it on for themselves. Or consider the bizarrely menacing “Napoleonic” ad campaign for Dolce and Gabbana clothing launched in 2006, one of whose advertisements showed two men in dapper period fashions threatening a third in a chair while another lay on the floor bleeding from a head wound. The melancholy for a racier, more dangerous time is tangible. Lest one judge these ads too harshly, it is essential to recall that their delivery systems, that is, high-end fashion magazines, predetermine the cultural values they can be expected to impart. The visual shock provided by sexual provocation and allusions to sadism and torture are attractive commodities among sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds. It is unreasonable to expect messages of moral restraint and civic responsibility to be reproduced in a genre and product designed to market luxury to the young; elitism, power, and exclusivity sell better. Nevertheless, the slavish admiration of privilege that runs through these images gives pause: why should we citizens of modern democracies mourn this version of the past?Add a Comment