Behold, lovers of children’s books, “two of literature’s most tortured characters, together at last” in the Willems Shakespeare mashup of Mo Willems’s pigeon (from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!) performing Hamlet’s famed soliloquy.
Tag Archives: books
I love any story about a girl who escapes into books and finds whole new worlds of wonder and possibility within them. Plus, any girl whose favorite book is Anne of Green Gables must be a kindred spirit.
Once upon a time, there lived a girl called Jasmine.
Jasmine lived in a pretty rough and tough part of London with just her mum and her brother.
Jasmine’s mum worked a lot because they didn’t have very much money, and so often Jasmine had to entertain herself.
One day, her teacher gave her some books, and Jasmine soon found herself completely hooked.
She would read one book, then another, then another, and another. She just couldn’t stop reading!
One of her favorite places was the local library, where she would sit for hours and hours until it was time to close and she had to go home.
She was famous amongst her friends for missing her bus stop, because she always had her nose in a book.
Jasmine had lots of favorite stories. She liked James and the Giant Peach, because it taught her to think big.
She also enjoyed Avocado Baby, because it showed her she could be really strong.
But her favorite book of all was Anne of Green Gables, because she realized that, like Anne, she too could achieve anything she wanted. And she did. [English star! A+! Top of the class!]
In fact, Jasmine was the first in her family to go to university.
And what’s Jasmine doing now? Well, she’s about to publish her own first novel.
Jasmine is our friend, and we’re inspired by her story. We understand the power of books because reading changed her life.
While rereading an October 2011 Brain Pickings roundup of Steve Jobs quotations, I got to thinking that Jobs’s views on the importance of a broad-based education echo certain sentiments in “The Education of an Artist,” a chapter in The Shape of Content by Ben Shahn.
In particular there’s a quote by Jobs from the February 1996 issue of Wired that seems especially relevant: ”A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. They don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions, without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better designs we will have.”
It seems to me that the artistry and elegance Jobs is credited with bringing to Apple technology is rooted in Shahn’s same notions of being well rounded and letting that inform one’s art. Shahn advocated being an ever-curious individual, soaking up all aspects of life and not turning away from any of it because it’s “not you.”
“Attend a university if you possibly can. There is no content of knowledge that is not pertinent to the work you will want to do. But before you attend a university work at something for a while. Do anything. Get a job in a potato field; or work as a grease-monkey in an auto repair shop. But if you do work in a field do not fail to observe the look and the feel of earth and of all things that you handle—yes, even potatoes! Or, in the auto shop, the smell of oil and grease and burning rubber. Paint of course, but if you have to lay aside paintings for a time, continue to draw. Listen well to all conversations and be instructed by them and take all seriousness seriously. Never look down upon anything or anyone as not worthy of notice. In college or out of college, read. And form opinions! Read Sophocles and Euripedes and Dante and Proust. Read everything that you can find about art except the reviews. Read the Bible; read Hume; read Pogo. Read all kinds of poetry and know many poems and many artists.
“Go to an art school, or two, or three, or take art courses at night if necessary. And paint and paint and draw and draw. Know all that you can, both curricular and noncurricular—mathematics and physics and economics, logic, and particularly history. Know at least two languages besides your own, but anyway, know French. Look at pictures and more pictures. Look at every kind of visual symbol, every kind of emblem; do not spurn signboards or furniture drawings or this style of art or that style of art. Do not be afraid to like paintings honestly or to dislike them honestly, but if you do dislike them retain an open mind. Do not dismiss any school of art, not the Pre-Raphaelites nor the Hudson River School nor the German Genre painters. Talk and talk and sit at cafes, and listen to everything, to Brahms, to Brubeck, to the Italian hour on the radio. Listen to preachers in small town churches and in big city churches. Listen to politicians in New England town meetings and to rabble-rousers in Alabama. Even draw them. And remember that you are trying to learn to think what you want to think, that you are trying to coordinate mind and hand and eye. Go to all sorts of museums and galleries and to the studios of artists. Go to Paris and Madrid and Rome and Ravenna and Padua. Stand alone in Sainte Chapelle, in the Sistine Chapel, in the Church of the Carmine in Florence. Draw and draw and paint and learn to work in many media; try lithography and aquatint and silk-screen. Know all that you can about art, and by all means have opinions. Never be afraid to become embroiled in art or life or politics; never be afraid to learn to draw or paint better than you already do; and never be afraid to undertake any kind of art at all, however exalted or however common, but do it with distinction.”
(Drawings: Ben Shahn for The Shape of Content, originally published in 1957)
The weather’s supposed to clear up this Sunday after several off-and-on days of much-needed rain, so I’m hoping to take the opportunity to bolt to San Francisco for a little day trip around the Outer Sunset / Lands End / the Legion of Honor.
My plan is to check out Outerlands for the amazing-looking Dutch pancake (just look at that thing) plus possibly the eggs in jail (purely for the name). Although the fried egg open-face sandwich with roasted chicories and goat cheese sounds intriguing too…as do the poached eggs with braised greens and yellow corn grits. Accompanied by hot lemon-ginger apple cider with Buffalo Trace bourbon in a mason jar? Yes, please.
Ever since Weekend Sherpa ran this blurb on the 6-mile Grand Walk that skirts Lands End and Baker Beach before continuing to Fort Mason, I’ve wanted to traverse the trail myself. At least a small part of it. Judging from this Google map, I could easily head up the Great Highway from Outerlands and park at the Lands End lot behind the 1863 Cliff House, jump on the Coastal Trail—sidetracking briefly for a look-see of the labyrinth—and then follow to where the trail cuts up through Lincoln Park to the Legion of Honor. If the trails aren’t too soggy, that is.
Side note: Do you remember the book West from Home: Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, San Francisco, 1915? It’s a collection of Laura’s letters home to her husband, Almanzo, on their Rocky Ridge Farm in Missouri about visiting their daughter, Rose, during S.F.’s Panama Pacific International Exposition. Laura writes of the delight of dipping her toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time, somewhere along Baker Beach, and the image always stuck with me because, well, when I think of Laura, I think of the prairie. It’d be so neat to stand on the beach and imagine her there as the waves caress the sand, evoking the same wonder she must’ve felt.
Anyhow, it’ll feel good to be outdoors in the sun after the rain has washed the air clean this past week. And how cool will it be to combine some hiking and books with a little art fix?
The Legion’s exhibition The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900 is up, with its focus on the British Aesthetic Movement, and I’m curious to see paintings like this Stanhope mainly as a foil to the fin de siècle Austrian Expressionism I’ve been so immersed in with my MLA thesis on Egon Schiele. In fact, the whole trip will be a nice break from thesis writing and colloquium.
I love planning little adventures like this—and having the time for them again, as well as the head space not to stress out about taking time away from doing what I need to graduate.