|Johanna Basford page from her Colouring Gallery,|
colored by Philip
(Side note: Are there any great poems about mothers? Poems by Heaney and Plath and Poe and more, surely, come to mind. I think of Yeats's worn mothers, their daughters with ribbons in their hair--the mothers can't warn or fix a thing! If you like some poem about a mother, please leave the title and author.)
But Anna Jarvis brings up the idea that so often what starts out as a lovely thing becomes co-opted and degraded, doesn't it? And that goes for every little wisp and strand of culture.
Currently I am listening to two books I've read before, The Woman in White or Kidnapped, when I fold laundry (one of my least-favorite things to do.) In Kidnapped, I'm just up to the point where David Balfour must defend his life for the first time. And I'm thinking about how different the book is from popular young adult books of our own day, though it has adventure and a teen protagonist. David Balfour begins as a very adult sort of child who has already suffered losses and is seen off in the world by the kindly Mr. Campbell, minister of Essendean. He goes off on foot to find the House of Shaws. He is no fool and does not trust his Uncle Ebenezer, but his downfall comes when he persuades himself that his uncle may mean some degree of good to him--even though his uncle tried to kill him earlier by sending him up rotten tower stairs in the dark--and he also feels a desire to step on board a ship. David suffers both physically and mentally for indulging his desire and distrusting his own instincts. Quite soon he faces another situation where he must assess right and wrong and make a moral, high-cost decision about whom to support and whether to be brave, and he sides with the outnumbered Alan Breck Stewart, even though he fears that it may cost his life and even though Stewart is a Jacobite, while David is a Whig. But it is a giant leap into adulthood, where David opposes the child-killing Shuan and the ongoing evil of Captain Hoseason.
I am rejoiced indeed to hear you speak so kindly of my work; rejoiced and surprised. I seem to myself a very rude, left-handed countryman; not fit to be read, far less complimented, by a man so accomplished, so adroit, so craftsmanlike as you. You will happily never have cause to understand the despair with which a writer like myself considers (say) the park scene in Lady Barberina. Every touch surprises me by its intangible precision; and the effect when done, as light as syllabub, as distinct as a picture, fills me with envy. Each man among us prefers his own aim, and I prefer mine; but when we come to speak of performance, I recognise myself, compared with you, to be a lout and slouch of the first water.We could use such "a lout and a slouch." It's like thinking of Auden on vacation, learning Icelandic.
Complexities and the adult
I'm thinking about Stevenson in the light of Susan Nieman's article about the infantilization of Western culture.
Each of us has to take some responsibility for this collective madness. As individuals, we are scared to read “difficult” books or attempt other challenging activities. As the Enlightenment’s two greatest philosophers, Rousseau and Kant, argued, growing up is a challenge.The moral complexity of the relationship between Balfour and Stewart: is it equaled in our "young adult" novels? According to Nieman, more than half of the young adult books sold are sold to adults, and most of those report buying them to read themselves. In a world awash in Marvel hero movies, infinite games, artists who can't paint or sculpt, writers who want to shock an unshockable world with heightened sex and violence, and coloring books for adults, do we even desire morally complex relationships in any kind of novel? Does anyone care if entertainment wrestles art to the ground and skips away triumphant?
Real adult activity takes effort and often courage. Colouring in someone else’s designs is always easier than making your own, just as forming your own opinions – after gathering and weighing information – is always harder than parroting other people’s views. This is why Kant wrote that thinking for oneself is the key to growing up.
All of this leads me to conclude that I am really a minor character in Gawain and the Green Knight, unseen, occasionally bringing out a serving dish but mostly scribbling in a back room by the fire, leaves in my hair. I send you greetings from the leafing castle.
|More from Basford's gallery of fans.|
Colored by Lynn Lamont
with Staedtler Noris Club pencils.