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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Moomin Madness

Moomins are not as well-known in the United States as they are in Europe, but the albino trolls are stepping up their world-wide quest for domination of the child mind-- and the alternative adult mind too.  Moomins are the invention of Swedish-speaking Finnish authoress and artist Tove Jansson (1914-2001).  To your correspondent they look like unarticulated relatives of the Michelin Man (1894), or bestial cousins to the Pillsbury Doughboy (1965).  Others have compared them to upright hippopotami. 

Moomins came to fruition in 1945 when they appeared in the first of the Moomin books, The Moomins and the Great Flood.  You know you've arrived when you have your own theme park, and Moomin World is giving Disney a run for its money in Finland, with a satellite slated to open next year in Japan, where Moomins are wildly popular.  Hello Kitty, watch your back!

Jansson was the child of artists and led a bohemian life even by Scandinavian standards of her time, eventually partnering with another woman, artist Tuulikki Pietilä.  The moomins share Jansson's predilection for living close to nature and prizing tolerance as a virtue.

There are nine moomin books, the last having been published in 1970.  Original editions with their charming illustrations are now prized by collectors.  Get yours while they last.  Tie-in merchandise sold separately.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Ludwig Bemelmans--Dipping Deeper than Madeline

Ludwig Bemelmans (1898-1962) was an Austrian-born writer and illustrator, naturalized in the United States in 1918.  He led a colorful life, working in hotels and restaurants, consorting with gangsters, and joining the US army, as a non-combatant. 

Though famous for his children's books featuring Madeline, Bemelmans was exceedingly prolific and wrote numerous books for adult readers, both fiction and non-fiction. 

His books are collectable on account of their charming illustrations done in a naive style reminiscent of the work of Raoul Dufy (disclaimer: not that there is anything naive about Dufy's art).
He travelled widely between the wars, and his books also furnish interesting accounts of daily life in the countries of Europe, written by a sympathetic exile.

Above illustrations from The Blue Danube (New York, Viking Press, 1945).