Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘books’

19 APRIL, 2012

C. S. Lewis on the Secret of Happiness

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‘A good toe-nail is not an unsuccessful attempt at a hair.’

Though a slim collection, C. S. Lewis: Letters to Children shines with the enormity of Lewis’s compassion and wisdom in responding to fan mail from his young readers, often imbuing his correspondence with a kind of subtle but profound advice on life, delivered unassumingly but full of wholehearted conviction.

Adding to his insight on duty and “the three things anyone need ever do” is this beautiful response to a boy named Hugh, who asked for a definition of “gaiety,” in a letter dated April 5, 1961.

A creature can never be a perfect being, but may be a perfect creature — e.g. a good angel or a good apple-tree. Gaiety at its highest may be an (intellectual) creature’s delighted recognition that its imperfection as a being may constitute part of its perfection as an element in the whole hierarchical order of creation. I mean, while it is a pity there sh[oul]d be bad men or bad dogs, part of the excellence of a good man is that he is not an angel, and of a good dog that it is not a man. This is the extension of what St. Paul says about the body & the members. A good toe-nail is not an unsuccessful attempt at a hair; and if it were conscious it w[oul]d delight in being simply a good toe-nail.

Half a century later, researcher-storyteller Brené Brown articulated a similar sentiment, making an eloquent case for the gifts of imperfection, and Alain de Botton cautioned us that these ideals we contort so hard to conform to may not even be our own. Perhaps at the end of the day “gaiety” is simply the ability to be our own imperfect being and fully inhabit its beingness.

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19 APRIL, 2012

If Darth Vader Actually Raised Luke Skywalker

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“Er, he looks just like you, Lord Vader!”

What if “Luke, I am your father” wasn’t the beginning and end of pop culture’s tensest father-son relationship? That’s the premise of comic artist Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader and Son — a sweet, funny, charmingly illustrated story that imagines an alternate universe in which the Dark Lord of the Sith actually raises his son. From potty training to lightsaber batting practice to ice cream runs, the endearing absurdity of the duo’s dynamic makes for a remix treat of the most entertaining variety.

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18 APRIL, 2012

Yayoi Kusama, Japan’s Most Celebrated Contemporary Artist, Illustrates Alice in Wonderland

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Down the rabbit hole in colorful dots, twisted typography, and strange eye conditions.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass endure as some of history’s most beloved children’s storytelling, full of timeless philosophy for grown-ups and inspiration for computing pioneers. The illustrations that have accompanied Lewis Carroll’s classics over the ages have become iconic in their own right, from Leonard Weisgard’s stunning artwork for the first color edition of the book to Salvador Dali’s little-known but breathtaking version. Now, from Penguin UK and Yayoi Kusama, Japan’s most celebrated contemporary artist, comes a striking contender for the most visually captivating take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland yet.

Since childhood, Kusama has had a rare condition that makes her see colorful spots on everything she looks at. Her vision, both literally and creatively, is thus naturally surreal, almost hallucinogenic. Her vibrant artwork, sewn together in a magnificent fabric-bound hardcover tome, becomes an exquisite embodiment of Carroll’s story and his fascination with the extraordinary way in which children see and explore the ordinary world.

A breathtaking piece of visual philosophy to complement Carroll’s timeless vision, Kusama’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the latest affirmation of what appears to be the season of exceptionally beautiful books.

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