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Beloved Illustrator Eric Carle’s Vibrant Ode to Friendship and How It Reunited Him with His Lost Childhood Friend

A heartwarming tale of affection and determination, told by one of our time’s greatest visual storytellers.

Beloved Illustrator Eric Carle’s Vibrant Ode to Friendship and How It Reunited Him with His Lost Childhood Friend

Eric Carle (b. June 25, 1929) is arguably the most celebrated — and prolific — children’s book author-illustrator alive and a tireless champion of art for young humans. Almost half a century after his beloved classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which has delighted generations of children, Carle returns with Friends (public library) — the heart-warming story of an inseparable boy and girl, and the boy’s quest to reunite with his dear friend after she moves away. The tale was inspired by a photograph of 3-year-old Carle embracing a girl in a white dress in his hometown of Syracuse. Though he never learned her name, he remained enchanted by the mystery and innocence of that early friendship.

Illustrated in Carle’s signature technique of colorful hand-painted tissue paper collages, the story exudes the joyful warmth of Maurice Sendak and Ruth Krauss’s vintage ode to friendship, I’ll Be You and You Be Me, the vibrant adventurousness of Alone in the Forest, and, above all, Carle’s own singular touch.

But here is the most astounding part: After the book was published, Carle’s mysterious childhood friend saw the story and the two were reunited 82 years after the photograph that inspired the book was taken.

Friends comes forty-eight after the very first book he ever illustrated, a 1965 edition of Aesop’s fables. Perhaps poetically, the second book Carle illustrated as a young artist was a small collection of quotes about friendship.

Images courtesy of Philomel / Penguin Group


Europe, America, Utopia: Calvino on Hemingway

“In Hemingway one finds almost all of what was meant by America.”

“I continue to maintain that I have never loved any writer as much as Hemingway, even though his character can be vulgarized,” Italo Calvino wrote in one of his letters in 1964. In another letter, he pointed to Hemingway as the author who most influenced his own early work. In fact, the evolution of his relationship with Hemingway reveals a great deal about both writers and, beyond that, about some of the most central concerns in twentieth-century literature and in the writerly soul in general.

Calvino believed that the Russian-American engendered the “communistization” of Italian intellectuals in the avant-garde, and the dissolution of that alliance during the Cold War affected Italian culture just as profoundly. In a 1950 letter to the literary critic Mario Motta, found in Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941–1985 (public library) — which also gave us his thoughts on writing, America, abortion and the meaning of life, and his poetic resume — 27-year-old Calvino wrote that Russia and America, more than actual countries or political ideologies, functioned as placeholders for “a collection of Italian data and aspirations” and were “two utopian countries, two incomplete and complementary utopias,” the sum of which added up to what many intellectuals considered the true objective of the Italian Resistance. But it was Hemingway whom Calvino saw as the anchor of the American part of the equation. In the same letter, Calvino considers writing an article about Hemingway and cracks open his conflicted thought process:

In [Hemingway] one finds almost all of what was meant by America. The virginity of its history, its technique (knowing how to do things), freedom and fullness of love, the open air, a direct democracy in human relations, courage. And, as writing, one finds in it the maximum help for developing one’s technique: H.’s language is technical and functional, in which there is nothing that is without immediate, rational utilization, there is no abstraction, solipsism or fanciness (as had previously been the case in the great but obscure Faulkner). But H. is an “America” that fails to find its “Russia.” It finds instead (and the problem is it goes looking for it) its “Europe.” This is H.’s decadentism. And he finds it on the basis (and as a diversion and explanation) of the elements from the worst side of America (which is as real as the other side) that are in him: alcoholism, ignorance, emptiness. And, as a barbarian, he has highly refined intuitions regarding European barbarism-civilization; he enters the Olympus of our most refined irrationalism, he the “technical” writer: but what is that to us now? We could have sent any old Montherlant to see bullfights. It was something else we wanted from him, something else now that what comes back more and more to our eyes — to the point of covering the aspects we sought and loved in him and still seek and love in him — now that what comes back, as I was saying, are the other aspects. . . These matter to us less and less now, so it is something else, then, something that is now beyond him… beyond him (where?) that we are looking for now. As you can see, these are very difficult ideas to express. And note that these things came to my mind as I was writing, and every time I’ve begun writing about this damned man what came to mind were different things, and certainly when I come to write this article I’ll write things that are different again, and now I need to keep the rough copy of this letter otherwise I’ll forget everything.

In another letter to Motta a month later, Calvino revisits the subject of Hemingway:

Hemingway — notwithstanding (or rather precisely because of) the fundamental American emptiness that he notices all around him and of which he too is a part — Hemingway who feels the need to go back to the basic relationships of man with things: fishing well, lighting fires well, establishing relations between a man and a woman well, and between men and other men, blowing up bridges well (except that he lacks the general perspective, and becomes futile and gets bored; what do bull-fights matter to us, even when well done?)

Four years later, at age 31, Calvino formulated and formalized his thoughts on Hemingway in the essay “Hemingway e noi” (“Hemingway and Ourselves,”) found in the anthology Why Read the Classics?, which also gave us his 14 timeless definitions of what makes a classic.

For a first-hand impression of Hemingway’s literary convictions, see his thoughts on writing and the dangers of ego, his advice to aspiring writers, his short, somewhat embittered Nobel Prize acceptance speech, and his young self’s irreverent ideas of heaven and hell.


Stunning Photographs of the World’s Last Indigenous Tribes

From Siberia to the Sahara, by way of face paint, mud masks, and eagle-hunting.

In the late 1990s, photographer Jimmy Nelson became fascinated by Earth’s last living indigenous tribes. It took him a decade to begin documenting their fascinating lives, but once he did, what came out of his 4×5 camera was nothing short of mesmerizing — a glimpse of what feels like a parallel universe, or rather parallel multiverses, to our Western eyes, yet one full of our immutable shared humanity. The magnificent results are now gathered in Before They Pass Away (public library) — a lavish large-format tome featuring 500 of Nelson’s striking photographs, standing somewhere between Jeroen Toirkens’s visual catalog of Earth’s last nomads and Rachel Sussman’s photographic record of the oldest living things in the world.

The journey took Nelson all over the world, from the deserts of Africa to the steppes of Siberia. He writes:

I wanted to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic document that would stand the test of time. A body of work that would be an irreplaceable ethnographic record of a fast disappearing world.

The semi-nomadic Kazakhs, descendent from the Huns, have been herding in the valleys of Mongolia since the 19th century and take great pride in their ancient art of eagle-hunting.

The Huli of Papua New Guinea migrated to the island about 45,000 years ago. Today, the remaining tribes often fight with one another for resources — land, livestock, women. To intimidate the enemy, the largest tribe, the Huli wigmen, continue the ancient tradition of painting their faces in yellow, red and white and making elaborate wigs of their own hair.

Legend has it that the Asaro Mudmen of Papua New Guinea’s Highlands Province had to flee from an enemy into the Asaro River. There, they waited until sundown to make their escape. When they rose from the river banks covered in mud, their enemies took them for spirits and ran in terror. To this day, the Asaro maintain the mythic masks to petrify warring tribes.

Though the Gauchos of South America might appear more “modern” than other indigenous tribes, these free-spirited nomadic horsemen have remained a self-contained culture since they first started roaming the prairies in the 1700s.

A distinct ethnic group and even more distinct cultural collective, Tibetans, descendent from aboriginal and nomadic Qiang tribes, are known for their prayer flags, sky burials, spirit traps, and festival devil dances, which encapsulate their history and beliefs.

The Maasai endure as one of the oldest and greatest warrior cultures. As they migrated from the Sudan in the 15th century, they took possession of the local tribes’ cattle and conquered much of the Rift Valley. To this day, they depend on the natural cycles of rainfall and drought for their cattle, which remain their core source of sustenance.

The reindeer-herding Nenets of northern Arctic Russia have thrived for over a millennium at temperatures ranging from 58ºF below zero in the winter to 95ºF in the summer, migrating across more than 620 miles per year, 30 of which consist in the grueling crossing of the frozen Ob River.

In his entertaining and moving TEDxAmsterdam talk, Nelson tells the story of how his life changed when he lost all his hair, why he traveled through Tibet on foot, and what led him to this project:

See more of Nelson’s remarkable photos on the project site and treat yourself to the treasure that is Before They Pass Away. For a “tribal” ethnography of a very different kind, yet one strikingly similar in many ways, complement this with Humans of New York.


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