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Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast » Blog Archive » On the Lives of Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson:My Full Q & A with Author Philip Nel

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast » Blog Archive » On the Lives of Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson:My Full Q & A with Author Philip Nel | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it

Crockett Johnson (born David Johnson Leisk, 1906-1975) and Ruth Krauss (1901-1993) were a husband-and-wife team that created such popular children's books as The Carrot Seed and How to Make an Earthquake. Separately, Johnson created the enduring children's classic Harold and the Purple Crayon and the groundbreaking comic strip Barnaby. Krauss wrote over a dozen children's books illustrated by others, and pioneered the use of spontaneous, loose-tongued kids in children's literature. Together, Johnson and Krauss's style--whimsical writing, clear and minimalist drawing, and a child's point-of-view--is among the most revered and influential in children's literature and cartooning, inspiring the work of Maurice Sendak, Charles M. Schulz, Chris Van Allsburg, and Jon Scieszka.

This critical biography examines their lives and careers, including their separate achievements when not collaborating. Using correspondence, sketches, contemporary newspaper and magazine accounts, archived and personal interviews, author Philip Nel draws a compelling portrait of a couple whose output encompassed children's literature, comics, graphic design, and the fine arts. Their mentorship of now-famous illustrator Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) is examined at length, as is the couple's appeal to adult contemporaries such as Duke Ellington and Dorothy Parker. Defiantly leftist in an era of McCarthyism and Cold War paranoia, Johnson and Krauss risked collaborations that often contained subtly rendered liberal themes. Indeed, they were under FBI surveillance for years. Their legacy of considerable success invites readers to dream and to imagine, drawing paths that take them anywhere they want to go.

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Literary Imagination
A curatorial extravaganza of the centrality of literature in human thought, action, and creative life.
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What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Even as the emphasis shifts to the keyboard, experts say that learning to write by hand improves motor skills, memory and creativity.
Judith Robertson's insight:

I'm not sure that I buy the argument that writing in cursive is a better facilitator of learning than, say, note-taking on a computer.  But I do agree that elegance of form in a carefully and beautifully handwritten note connects with something greater than the sum of its parts: a gesture towards human depth, an embrace of aesthetics that is organic and multifaceted in its expression.

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Lewis Carroll’s Photographs of Alice Liddell, the Inspiration for Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll’s Photographs of Alice Liddell, the Inspiration for Alice in Wonderland | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
One of the great polymaths of the 19th century, Lewis Carroll (pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) —mathematician, logician, author, poet, Anglican cleric—took to the new medium of photography with the same alacrity he applied to all of his pursuits.
Judith Robertson's insight:

The debate continues about Lewis Carroll's extensive collection of photographs of children, and the artist's psychological need for and uses of such images.

 

"As it stands, the photographs of Alice and other children open a fascinating, if sometimes discomfiting, window on an age that viewed childhood very differently than our own. They also give us a view of Carroll’s strange inner world, one not unlike the unsettling fantasy realm of 20th century folk artist Henry Darger. Unlike Darger, Carroll’s work brought him widespread fame in his lifetime, but like that reclusive figure, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass was a shy, introspective man whose imaginative landscape possessed a logic all its own, charged with magic, threat, and longing for lost childhood innocence.

See a galleries of Carroll’s photographs of Alice and other children here and here, and see this site for more general info on Carroll’s photography."

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Edgar Allan Poe, Interior Design Critic

Edgar Allan Poe, Interior Design Critic | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
What scared the author of 'The Pit and the Pendulum'? Bad design.
Judith Robertson's insight:

I have long read Poe for his literary genius and loved him.  How sweet it is now to find that his writer's eye shares that of a visual artist, with a strong commitment to the principles of form, story and substance in the domestic mise-en-scene.

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Video: Blake Bailey on Writing About His Own Life

Video: Blake Bailey on Writing About His Own Life | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
The literary biographer talks about his new memoir, “The Splendid Things We Planned.”
Judith Robertson's insight:

"Voltaire said about the dead, 'We owe them only the truth.'  And that is the philosophy I assume in this narrative. (Blake Bailey on Writing About His Own Life)

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Book Review Byline Tally Shows Gender Disparity

Book Review Byline Tally Shows Gender Disparity | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
In its annual count of male and female bylines in book reviews, magazines and literary journals, VIDA, a women’s literary organization, revealed that in 2013, the publications still largely favored men over women.
Judith Robertson's insight:

Kudos to the New York Times Book Review and the Paris Review for taking critical steps to reverse the unconscionable display of gender discrimination in authorship of literary reviews in contemporary journalism.

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Professors, We Need You!

Professors, We Need You! | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Academics are some of the smartest minds in the world. So why are they making themselves irrelevant?
Judith Robertson's insight:

I relate to this discussion of the usefulness of academic prose.  I am a trained Doctor of Philosophy, capable of delivering a beautifully constructed argument with analytical punch.  Problem is... No one reads it.  "A related problem is that academics seeking tenure must encode their insights into turgid prose. As a double protection against public consumption, this gobbledygook is then sometimes hidden in obscure journals — or published by university presses whose reputations for soporifics keep readers at a distance."

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A. A. Gill Honored for Top Hatchet Job

A. A. Gill Honored for Top Hatchet Job | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Mr. Gill’s review of Morrissey’s “Autobiography” took home an annual prize for the best negative book review.
Judith Robertson's insight:

“Poser writes pretentious book. Poser writes pretentious review.”

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Farewell

Farewell | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
After 16 years of stories that raised as many thoughts and ideas as animals and pets, this is the last installment of The Rural Life.
Judith Robertson's insight:

I've enjoyed this column, managing to imbibe from it a quiet sense of peace and good rhythm that comes from being connected to nature.  Thank you, Verlyn Klinkenborg.

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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ and Its Ties to Chelsea

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ and Its Ties to Chelsea | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
A reader asks whether Clement Clarke Moore, known for a famous holiday poem, was indeed the primary developer of the Chelsea section of Manhattan.
Judith Robertson's insight:

I especially love that the writer of this famous poem kept " A Visit from St. Nicholas" a secret lest it sully his repuation as a serious academic.  Oh, the secrets we keep...

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Kelmscott Press, a Thing of Iron Musculature, Is to Be Sold

Kelmscott Press, a Thing of Iron Musculature, Is to Be Sold | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
The 1891 press that produced “The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer,” among other late-19th-century books, is to be auctioned by Christie’s on Friday.
Judith Robertson's insight:

There is nothing like a good old-fashioned printing press to get an artist's heart beating harder.  Well known for fostering aesthetic miracles (think of William Morris's stunning visuals), as well as psychological relief (think of Virginia Woolf type-setting for the Hogarth Press in her Meckelridge Street basement with Leonard), the printing press has served long and well, making the world a brighter and more humane place.  David Dunlap elaborates in the NYT, with reference to William Morris's massive Kelmscott Press, shortly up for auction:

 

"His monument, “The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer,” is a 556-page volume, with illustrations by Edward Burne-Jones. It was laboriously printed, two pages at a time, from 1894 to 1896 at Morris’s Kelmscott Press in the Hammersmith district of London. Each page is roughly 17 by 11 inches. Many are encircled by decorative borders with so much plant life that they are almost aromatic.

To say that the Kelmscott Chaucer is ornate is like saying that a peacock has tail feathers; true enough, but something of an understatement.

“It is intended to be essentially a work of art,” Morris declared. And so it is."

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Fascinating tales from vibrant life

Fascinating tales from vibrant life | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Cardinal Newman said not to trust a recent convert.
Judith Robertson's insight:

I am chagrined that I had not heard of Penelope Fitzgerald until reading this wonderful review of a new biography about her life, penned by the illustrious Hermione Lee.  Here's a snippet from reviewer Michael Alexander's column in The Herald Scotland:

 

"Penelope Fitzgerald's story is, then, an encouraging one, and not only for writers. Things did not go well for her in the middle of her life, which may be why her first book - a life of the painter Edward Burne-Jones - appeared only in her 60th year. Her subsequent biographies, The Knox Brothers and Charlotte Mew And Her Friends are as rich and rewarding as any novel. But as she turned more to fiction, her novels became more carefully organised, and both graver and funnier.

She writes about mismatched love and the mishaps of life, though not in a miserable spirit. She uses the economy of comedy to deal with material which involves tragic surprises. She preferred, she said, not to insult the reader by explaining too much.

Offshore won the Booker Prize in 1979, but she never had a popular readership. Only with her last and most miraculous book, The Blue Flower, did she have a hit (in the US, not the UK) and make money. Frank Kermode, AS Byatt and Julian Barnes liked her books, but the sales reps found them hard to put across. It did not help on the promotional circuit to have been born in 1916, to favour William Morris pinafores and to be a lady. Interviewers found her modest, self-deprecating, elusive; some failed to notice the intellectual steel."

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James McBride on His Novel ‘The Good Lord Bird’

James McBride on His Novel ‘The Good Lord Bird’ | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
James McBride, the surprise winner of the National Book Award for “The Good Lord Bird,” was instantly elevated to a level of literary celebrity that he has yet to enjoy throughout a long career in writing.
Judith Robertson's insight:

A new title for the ever expanding wish list.   This one moves to the top.

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Poets Remember Seamus Heaney

Poets Remember Seamus Heaney | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Paul Muldoon, Lucie Brock-Broido and Paul Simon were among those who read from Mr. Heaney’s work at Cooper Union’s Great Hall.
Judith Robertson's insight:

A proper tribute and send off for one of the mighties.

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The Fairy Tale of the Romanov Sisters Was Far From the Full Story

The Fairy Tale of the Romanov Sisters Was Far From the Full Story | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
How the famous family battled destiny.
Judith Robertson's insight:

Yelena Akhtiorskaya writes in the Guardian about Helen Rappaport's  haunted and wrenching newly published history of Russia's last imperial family, The Romanovs.

 

"Rappaport’s main undertaking is to give the sisters back their

individuality. The Romanovs themselves, however, undermine the effort. To their mother, Alexandra, they’re “the girlies.” Those girlies refer to themselves as OTMA (Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia). To the outside world they’re the Grand Duchesses—always the same “four light dresses, four gay summer hats.” From an early age, Alexandra dressed her daughters in “their own informal ‘uniform’ of matching colours, as two identifiable couples—the ‘Big Pair’ and the ‘Little Pair’ as she called them.” The coupling makes sense. The big pair is prime princess stock—they are tall, slender, graceful; the little pair is shorter, fatter, clumsier, and, as if in compensation, more lovable." 

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Louis-Ferdinand Céline and extreme writing - quiz

Louis-Ferdinand Céline and extreme writing - quiz | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
On the 'outlaw' author's anniversary, we bring you in for questioning about literature's extremists
Judith Robertson's insight:

Feel like wiling away a few minutes?  In honour of Celine's birthdy, try your hand at this short quiz from the Guardian on "extreme writers".... You may discover that you've dipped your toe deeper into this literature than you thought!

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Shoring Against the Ruins |

Shoring Against the Ruins | | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
A new biography on Walter Benjamin lays out his major works as part of an evolution of thought.
Judith Robertson's insight:

We remember him for many things:  his brilliant "angel of history" metaphor, his intellectually productive friendships with Adorno and Horkheimer, his unfinished, brilliant Arcades project, his ambivalence towards his Judaism and matters of faith in general, his prescient early understanding of the unfathomable destructiveness of Nazism, his failed attempts to win a university professorship as a young man, and his tragic suicide in 1941 leaving behind a never-to-be-found unfinished manuscript in a small hotel room somewhere in the Pyrenees.  Now comes a 700 page biography, Shoring Against the Ruins, that promises to shed light on this wonderfully complex, brilliant but daunting 20th C. philosopher, cultural critic, and literary theorist. Perhaps it is my view onto fog this afternoon through whatever window I look, but I cannot shake the feeling that Walter Benjamin's was a sad, sad life.

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Creative writing professor Hanif Kureishi says such courses are 'a waste of time'

Creative writing professor Hanif Kureishi says such courses are 'a waste of time' | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Buddha of Suburbia author, who teaches subject at Kingston University, added that many of his students could 'write sentences' but not tell stories
Judith Robertson's insight:

But Jeanette Winterson, who teaches at Manchester University, disagreed with Kureishi. She told the Guardian: "My job is not to teach my MA students to write; my job is to explode language in their faces. To show them that writing is both bomb and bomb disposal – a necessary shattering of cliche and assumption, and a powerful defusing of the soul-destroying messages of modern life (that nothing matters, nothing changes, money is everything, etc). Writing is a state of being as well as an act of doing. My job is to alter their relationship with language. The rest is up to them."

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A beautiful day for poetry

A beautiful day for poetry | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
On February 15th, in Cobourg Canada, poetry appeared in the streets. 120 poets from all over the world sent in more than 500 love poems that were displayed on store windows and read out to the publ...
Judith Robertson's insight:

I love this idea of poetry taking over the street:  poetry hanging from store front windows, wandering poets shouting out lyrics, the pure force of poetry re-igniting the Agora.  How inspired and purely liberating a force - well done PiC for creating FEELTHE LOVE in Downtown Cobourg!

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Sebastian Barker obituary

Sebastian Barker obituary | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Lyrical poet, much influenced by William Blake, whose later work contained a strong philosophical and reflective streak
Judith Robertson's insight:

Elizabeth Smart's son, Sebastian Barker (also a poet) is dead - another sad passing in this month of heart-wrenching losses.

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In Praise of (Offline) Slow Reading

In Praise of (Offline) Slow Reading | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Reading books is an important part of coming to know who we are.
Judith Robertson's insight:

David Mikics calls on Dave Eggers's popular dystopic tale "The Circle" to pronounce darkly on the self annilhating effects of social networking, especially when digital immersion takes away from slow time with a good old-fashioned book.

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Brazil's Most Pathetic Profession

Brazil's Most Pathetic Profession | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Being a teacher or a philosopher is pretty bad. Just don't tell anyone you're a writer.
Judith Robertson's insight:

I'm not surprised to read this analysis. Just sad.

 

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Obama’s Purple Crayon

Obama’s Purple Crayon | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
A literacy advocate says a president can learn from a beloved children’s book.
Judith Robertson's insight:

A great letter to a president.

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The Books Of 2013 - Online Exclusives

The Books Of 2013 - Online Exclusives | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Herald writers reveal what's provided their reading pleasure this year.
Judith Robertson's insight:

Many of these books have now made it onto my must read list, thanks to the persuasive annotations of these Herald Scotland writers and reviewers.

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Arnon Grunberg Is Writing While Connected to Electrodes

Arnon Grunberg Is Writing While Connected to Electrodes | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
The Dutch author Arnon Grunberg, and his readers, are the subject of a study that aims to track the physiology of writing and literary appreciation.
Judith Robertson's insight:

Writer and creativity enthusiast Arnon Grunberg wants to know what happens neurologically when people write.  To this end he is conducting a scientific experiment of his own writing process, with 28 electrodes hooked up to his scalp for company.  They hurt.  They intrude.  They need to be watered in order to conduct energy.  Nevertheless, the writer is convinced that he is on to something big.  Next phase of the experiment will involved readers who are similarly connected, whilst reading Grunberg's prose.  Will similar parts of the brain light up? 

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Canada Reads 2014: Meet the Top 10 | canadareads with Jian Ghomeshi | CBC Radio

Canada Reads 2014: Meet the Top 10 | canadareads with Jian Ghomeshi | CBC Radio | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
What is the one novel that could change Canada? That's the question we put to you, Canada, earlier this year. And you answered! Thousands of recommendations poured in from across the country.
Judith Robertson's insight:

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's list of Canada's top 10 reads, based on surveys with Canadian readers.  I have my work cut out for me - have only read one of these picks.

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