Wednesday, July 26, 2017

To Read Only Children's Books

To read only children's books
To cherish only children's thoughts.
All grownup things to disperse far away
And to rise from a deep sorrow.
Osip Mandelstam 
trans. Dmitri Smirnov

This past week I began re-reading the Odyssey, in Robert Fagles magnificent translation.  As I've been reading, I've been reminded that my initial introduction to Homer was not so much textual as visual.  

As a child I was fortunate indeed to have come across the Golden Book Illiad and the Odyssey that immediately captured my imagination.  Even as a child, (or perhaps, particularly as a child) I must admit, many children's books seemed to me to be, well, childish.  Either clumsily drawn and painted, cloyingly sentimental or both.  More what the illustrator thought a child should want to look at rather at than what a child would actually want to see. 

But this book was different.  

Superbly illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen (not that at the time I paid any attention to who the artists were),  I was immediately drawn-in. I was enthralled by the wonderfully vibrant and dynamic line work and bold, expressive painting. 

By the flawless page composition . 

The large folio format of the book. 

And as a nine-year old, I loved the charioteers and heavily armored warriors with swords and spears fighting each other.
Inevitably, I suppose, beginning with the death of my sister, I learned more about deep sorrow than I'd ever thought possible.  I had to quickly put away children's thoughts.   

But that child's book which I was reminded of again this week, I continue to cherish.  

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