Friday, February 18, 2011

discovering new worlds: naturalists + children's writers

Did you know Edward Lear not only drew imaginary beasts but also real live ones? (Not so far apart as you might imagine.) He wrote wonderfully silly nonsense verse but was also a wonderfully serious naturalist.

The NYT has an interesting article in their opinionator blog about the connection between writers and naturalists: they are both discovering or describing new worlds. Both are explorers. One of imaginary worlds; one of real.

I've long been a fan of Lear's nonsense verse. The article in the NYT said it wasn't very "edifying." I've never much cared for that word. It's a smug and judgmental word. And it's  never good when it's approaching you in a sentence.

I have a different take.

Edward Lear's work is pure genius and as a 7 year old (when I was first given THE COMPLETE NONSENSE) it opened a whole new world to me. And changed mine.

Just the title THE COMPLETE NONSENSE for a start. Plus he wrote AND illustrated it himself--with pen and ink drawings that were not neat but all scratchy and messy with ink blots and looked like something you yourself could try (and I did). And the funny verse--with the limericks you felt you could have a go at too (and I did). It was exuberant, joyful, free.

I'd never come across a book like it. I didn't know it was allowed. To have that much fun--to be that silly--inside a book. I still don't always. And have to remind myself every day that it is.
Both as naturalist and children's writer/illustrator, Lear was dealing in the wild--but it is in his children's books, with his wild and free imagination, that he reached me as a child.

So I am grateful for Edward Lear. And his imagination. It freed mine.

If that isn't "edifying", then I am quite certain I want nothing to do with whatever is.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How do you spell love?

"How do you spell love Piglet?" asked Pooh.

"I don't have to spell it," said Pooh. "I just feel it." 

a a milne

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