Archives for posts with tag: Carlo Collodi

Bedside Table Books To Date

I’ve read 13 books so far this year, which is slightly more than 1/4 of the way to the 50 I’ve set as my resolution. I wanted to take a little minute here to go over some observations about what I’ve read so far:

  • five outta thirteen are authored by women, and maybe a half, if you count Lydia Davis’ translation of Madame Bovary.
  • Four of these are translated books: Three from French, one from Italian. None of the translated works were originally written by women.
  • Four of these books are autobiographical or memoir, as opposed to novels.  I think it’s fair to count How Should A Person Be? in this category.
  • Three, actually call it three and a half,  of these include main plots or subplots that feature characters dealing with their own identities as Jews  in American, Canadian, and European contexts. (The half refers to Tassie Keltjin’s fascination with her Jewish mother and goyish secular father in A Gate at the Stairs.)
  • Of the thirteen books, I only read two that I wouldn’t gladly read again (American Pastoral and My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist).
  • One of these books was about the reproductive system of a dog.

My top five so far, in order of first remembrance:

1. Tracks, by Louise Erdrich

2. How Should A Person Be?, by Sheila Heti

3.The Mystery Guest, by Grégoire Boullier

4. The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker

5. Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi

Although honestly I really want to put Madame Bovary and A Gate at the Stairs, and To the Lighthouse and My Dog Tulip on that list. I guess that’s ’cause I’m not really one for playing favorites. Plus, I’ve been lucky enough to have chosen, for the most part, pretty damn good books so far.

I’m always on the lookout for good books.

If you’ve got any rad recomendations, drop me a line in the comments, or even send me an e-mail at see.emily.read[at]gmail.com.

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Pinochio Book Cover, New York Review of Books

 

What an absolute joy!

I’d never read the original, which is to say Carlo Collodi’s, version of  Pinocchio before, and though I was looking forward to it I was expecting something completely different. Rather than flowery ‘Olde Thyme-y’ language, I was delighted to be wrapped up completely in Collodi’s clear and playful prose, beautifully translated by Geoffery Brock.*

He’s like the Grampa you’ve always wanted.

I honestly never really liked the Disney movie, even as a kid, because I was more into elephants, as a matter of principle. I remember it, though, with the Jiminy Cricket character and his gentle Yankee ways. And the terrifying (and, as Rebecca West notes, uncomfortably racist) puppet master. And the drunken bubbles scene. Oh wait, that was Dumbo. I really did like elephants. Anyhow.

The Pinocchio that traipses around Collodi’s story is a real brat. Not only does he lie and skip school and take things that aren’t his, but he’s finicky and whiny and a picky eater to boot. He’s basically already a real boy, before some kind of scary fairy makes it so. And it’s not like I was officially rooting for him throughout the story. Well, not for all of it anyway.

The point is that even though he’s a horrible little bugger, there’s something sweet about him, even before he ‘turns good.’ He’s a kid, and he’s gross and sticky and does dumb things, and even if he doesn’t make long term commitments, even if he doesn’t consider love a responsibility to care, when I overhear him thinking about his in the moment love for Geppetto or for the girl with the blue hair,  yeah, I’m rooting for him.

I really liked how cold the blue haired fairy was, and the way that Geppetto was so deeply poor that his character was coarsened by the continual friction of need. The first half of Pinocchio is dark, and in the end of the first book Pinocchio is hanged to death. In the second half he is resuscitated by the girl with the blue hair, and she becomes some strange sort of regulatory sister/mother/lover who simultaneously nurtures and tortures the wooden puppet.

The story was magical in the good way, where the prose was simple and I could choose to either read it flat, like a kid, or read it deep in light of what little I know about the extremely poor living conditions of day to day Tuscany in the 1800s.  Not to get too  off base, but in parts I was reminded of the knobby kneed child villain in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, which happens, by the by, to be one of my all time faves. There’s something about kids being these Hobbesian creatures, these selfish little savages that rings true to life, or at least true to the way I pleasantly recall my own wild childhood. Collodi’s little wooden puppet is a beautiful example of this wilderness, and in reading the tale also offers both a moral and emotional redemption from the savageness of childhood; even before he is good, he is lovable. And like an adult, Pinocchio comes to understand that to love and be loved is to agree, implicitly and always, to be good.

 

*This sentence was edited from it’s original published form, which did not name Geoffrey Brock as the translator.