Monday, March 9, 2009

More Books (& Cupcakes) of Wonder + Anyone Know This Painting?

Let me get straight to the point: this painting is the one referred to in the title. Does anyone recognize the artist and/or title? If all else fails, I'll just go back to Books of Wonder and check the tag, but I seriously want to save myself from the temptations that place presents.

Below follows some more amazingness from the Neil Gaiman & Charles Vess signing session. And yes, from the cupcake store too.

The line was half a block long - even hours before the actual event took place. I "only" had to wait for 45 minutes or so, during which time I had ample opportunity to observe the girl in front of me tear the cover of her book into tiny pieces as she was reading. Later I found out she is an artist.


Irreversibly damaging 1) a work of art, 2) something a fellow artist labored on, 3) something she herself could have made / will probably make for a living at some point in the future. Not to mention the fact that she was hurting a book in public.

Now that I have moderately let some steam off, let us move on to more pleasant realms -- more of Neil and Charles, as well as outrageously funny advertising within the Cupcake Store.

Doesn't it look like that guy in the middle is an alien of some sorts?

Cupcakers and patient people (2 hours after the scheduled ending)

Yes, this is unbelievable but real.

Real Blueberry Girls - and Growing like a Weed

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess Signing

At the Book of Wonders
07 March 2009, 1 PM - 4 PM [- 8 PM]

Today, on what felt like the first real day of Spring there was an exceptional chance to purchase Bluberry Girl ahead of time in Books of Wonder and have it signed by the creator duo along with other Gaiman/Vess titles. The book will only hit Amazon on the 10th, still, most of the 450+ people who gathered at the reading, slideshow, and Q&A cum signing session today were already delighted by the soulful words and illustrations of the award winning illustrator and author.

Charles Vess and Neil Gaiman, signing

The idea of the picture book started out long ago as a poem Neil Gaiman wrote for Tori Amos' then yet unborn child and developed into a wonderful tribute to mother and daughterhood with the intimate and touching illustrations of Charles Vess. I only heard the end of the Q&A in the doorway as I was waiting to be let in, but the rest of the event was quite amazing and worth every minute of the wait. The originals were on display as well, and the exhibition will be open for the public until the 29th of March. Some of the proceeds from the purchased artwork go towards the RAINN organization, in keeping with the womanhood theme.

Click to enlarge

I was especially very very happy to see all the people "camping" between the aisles, all reading, reading, reading. The children were fascinated about the books and it was very good to see that some of them couldn't be dragged away from the words and pictures. (I might add, the audience was overwhelmingly adult.)

Click to enlarge

Besides, the Cupcake Store conveniently sharing the space with the bookstore had the most outrageously attractive cupcakes I have ever seen. It was pure meanness the way those cupcakes were advertised and displayed. I'm sure I'm not the only one who gave in to the temptation more than once.

You don't want to click this

Some personal stories: I overheard one of the girls working in the Cupcake Store confess that she had been working all day and was afraid she would miss having her book signed. I was amazed at her stamina: even just loitering around was terribly exhausting, let alone taking orders from hundreds of people all day. I really hope she got her personalized copy. (I also strongly hope Neil and Charles were fed at some point.)

A graver one: It was sad and shocking to find out late in the evening that Neil Gaiman went through a difficult time just prior the show. Still, he didn't let the hundreds of fans down and decided to conceal his grief and do the event. His smile was radiant and his geniality endearing even 6 hours into the session. I would like to honestly thank him for making it such a wonderful experience for us, and for taking some personal time with each and every fan in line. I hope he received back some of the energy and warmth he invested today. A long day, a long way. I wish him much strength.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Snow White :: Disney vs. Grimms, Round 5

About Disney's modern self-parody and the Grimms' male chauvinism

The DreamWorks production Shrek features a scene strongly reminiscent of Snow White’s forest song with the animals ("With a Smile and a Song"), in which Snow White seems to bind especially strongly with a small bird singing with its full might and sounding off key in the effort.

Shrek's wink at the famous forest idyll possesses less of a romantic charm. Due to Fiona’s artistic enthusiasm the Princess-Bird response aria comes to a tragic end. (Sorry I had to link to the video, embedding was disabled.)

Enchanted is clearly another laudable attempt at self-parody. The most recognizable original Walt Disney elements include the cleaning scene with the help of the animals featuring the "Happy Working Song," a parody of the 1937 Snow White’s "Whistle While You Work".

In Enchanted, the Princess lovingly enlists the help of the most repulsive city critters, including dirty pigeons, rats, and cockroaches as a parody of the “zoo” surrounding Snow White.

In Enchanted, similarly to Snow White, the heroine’s single goal in life is also to be wed and take up her role as housewife and mother. Needless to say, the happy ending consists in the fulfillment of this dream, even if the Prince does not turn out to be The One. It is easy to explain this desire as the ultimate success for the pre-19th-century women, the traditional storytellers (and even for most American women of the 30s and the two subsequent decades). As Zipes encapsulates the idea: “the classical fairy tale for children and adults reinforced the patriarchal symbolic order based on rigid notions of sexuality and gender.”

The Brothers Grimm, who apparently shared the popular notion that women should maintain the household and make sure all the men's desires are fulfilled, reinforced this model of happiness in Snow White--and many other tales. Their body of work, but especially their own biography gives ample evidence of their patriarchal attitude. As they collected their fairy tales, their most often used and most trusted sources were women. These women very often did all the footwork and wrote down different versions of fairy tales, then sent it by post to the Brothers, whose work as collectors was thus greatly facilitated.

However, other than a brief mention of one of them, Frau Viehmännin, in their introduction to the Kinder-und Hausmärchen, these diligent and devoted sources were overlooked and all credit was given to the Brothers. The women’s efforts were all the more laudable, seeing as female education of the times was lacking at best, and for the same reason many withdrew from contributing. As cited by Valerie Paradiz, a formerly devoted contributor suddenly ceased to show interest in the project and turned her full attention toward “her husband, and [was] afraid, like most females, about her writing mistakes”. On the same page she makes mention of another valuable source withdrawing from submitting tales because “she was embarrassed when she learned that male scholars would be scrutinizing the stories she told” (emphasis added).

The 1796 death of Dorothea Grimm, the mother of the Brothers, was a huge loss for the already fatherless family, and the five adolescents remained alone in the world, dependent on each other only. The weight of household chores, according to the age’s standards, now had to be shouldered by the only girl, the 15-year-old Lotte. However, according to Valerie Paradiz, she refused “to replace their mother as the family nurturer” and sunk into deep agony upon being considered little but “a domestic servant”. Her resistance outraged the brothers but this did not change the girl’s mind:

"Her resentment was strong. Jacob and Wilhelm had their privileged status as educated men of letters to make up for whatever material lack the family suffered, but Lotte had nothing. She faced this painful fact every day in a house of brothers who acknowledged her for little more than her utilitarian purposes."

It is then of little surprise that Snow White is only allowed to stay in the house of the dwarfs as long as she cooks, cleans, sews, and does all housework as needed. In the Grimm version the dwarfs make this the condition of her stay, and she diligently attends to her chores. Disney, however, made the girl start working voluntarily as soon as she’s stepped over the threshold. She even voices her hope, prior to the arrival of the dwarfs, that if she offers to “be their mother,” they might let her stay. When they discover her sleeping across the beds, she repeats the offer and it is, of course, readily accepted.

Even though not in this particular tale, the Grimm brothers frequently use the expression “sich verdingen” for stepping into such services, which in literal translation means “to make a thing out of oneself”, “to reify” oneself. Understandably, Lotte Grimm did not want to make an object of herself in a household of four men. It is little surprise, then, that Snow White’s ready self-sacrifice was much more desirable in the Brothers’ eyes than their sister's resistance.