Sunday, July 7, 2019
TOVE JANSSON'S THE SUMMER BOOK AND A RADIO INTERVIEW
I always forget to say when I'm going to be on the radio. So tune in tonight to "Amplify," KDKA Pittsburgh, 9-11 EST. Fr. Ron Lengwin and I will be discussing my new book, RAVISHED.
Meanwhile, here's how last week's arts and culture piece begins:
Tove Jansson (1914-2001), a Swedish-speaking Finnish writer and artist, is perhaps best known as the creator of the Moomins. These impish creatures and their adventures, featured in the numerous books that Jansson wrote and illustrated, have delighted children worldwide.
Born in Helsinki, Jansson was raised and formed by bohemian parents. Her father sculpted. Her mother, a painter, did illustrations for Garm, one of the few bravely anti-Fascist magazines in Finland in the years leading up to World War II.
She studied art in Stockholm, Helsinki, and Paris. Her love life was, let’s say, eventful.
In the summer of 1953, Jansson was commissioned to paint the altarpiece of Finland’s Teuva Church. The result was the “Ten Virgins” altarpiece, the only altar of her career. “I feel very competent when I glue gold,” she remarked of the project.
At the time, she was working on the book “Moominsummer Madness.” But the Moomins didn’t bring me to Jansson. What did was a strange and singular work called “The Summer Book,” written in 1972.
The story takes place on a small island over the space of a summer. There are other characters — a mostly absent father, an obnoxious child named Berenice. But the main action is between 6-year-old Sophia and her grandmother.
Here’s how the book, delectably, begins:
It was an early, very warm morning in July, and it had rained during the night. The bare granite steamed, the moss and crevices were drenched with moisture, and all the colors everywhere had deepened. Below the veranda, the vegetation in the morning shade was like a rainforest of lush, evil leaves and flowers, which she had to be careful not to break as she searched. She held one hand in front of her mouth and was constantly afraid of losing her balance.
“What are you doing?” asked little Sophia.
“Nothing,” her grandmother answered. “That is to say,” she added angrily, “I’m looking for my false teeth.”
READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.