Archive for July, 2011

What You Need: 9 Lost Songs from the 1980s

They were hits.  They were available on vinyl.  But you can’t buy them now.  They’re unavailable on CD or in digital form.  Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes (Special Mix),” Opus’s “Live Is Life,” the English version of Nena’s “99 Luftballoons” (“99 Red Balloons”), the English version of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom (Coming Home),” the American Version of Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus,” Blue Clocks Green’s “Hemingway.”

I have most of these on vinyl (photos below are from my collection unless otherwise indicated).  But the audio comes from persons unknown who have shared the sound files.  For the record (pun! pun!), I don’t condone piracy: I’ll only seek a “bootleg” copy of song if it’s unavailable commercially.  As always, if you are the owner or if you represent the owners of this material, just ask and I’ll take it down.

Peter Gabriel, "In Your Eyes" 12-inch

In Your Eyes (Special Mix) Peter Gabriel (1986)

Let’s start with the best unavailable song: Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes (Special Mix)” (1986).  Here is an 8:20 version, which is longer than the 7:14 on my 12-inch. With the exception of the extra minute, both of these versions are very similar in that they’re a vastly different version of Gabriel’s original — a new arrangement, with much more of Youssou N’Dour’s vocal.

Nena, "99 Red Balloons" ("99 Luftballons"): single cover

The 7:14 version is also available as a b-side to the original single.

99 Red Balloons Nena (1984)

Nena‘s original “99 Luftballons” (in German) can be found on the CD of the same name, along with a remix of “99 Red Balloons” (in English) — but, oddly, the original English version is not to be had.

Video (English):

Video (German):

Out of Mind Out of Sight Models (1986)

Perhaps this can be had in Australia (the band’s home), but it’s out of print here in the States.  At the time, I liked the song (I own the original 45) even if it sounded a bit like an INXS knock-off.  Now, however, this Models song sounds like a lost INXS classic. Time has shifted my aesthetic evaluation, or perhaps I was unfair to the song when it was first out. The video (below) reflects fashions I would have thought were hip in the 1980s and which now look like… they were hip in the 1980s. Um, yeah.

What You Need (Extended Vocal Mix) INXS (1985)

The Australian rock stars just before they became superstars.  From the 12” of “What You Need,” here’s a very 1980s remix by Nick Launay.  I enjoyed it just as much as the original version, which was a top #5 hit in the U.S.  It (the original) appears on INXS‘s Listen Like Thieves. The title track only made it to #54 on the U.S. pop charts, but their next album would yield four top ten singles in the US.  That record was, of course, Kick.

Opus, "Live Is Life" singleLive Is Life Opus (1985)

A big hit in Europe, and a smaller hit in the U.S. — made top 40 over here, but Opus‘s song topped the charts in France, Germany, Sweden.

Major Tom (Coming Home) Peter Schilling (1983)

Like Nena’s hit, the German version of Peter Schilling‘s song is readily available.  The English version is not.  A sequel to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (1969) and “Ashes to Ashes” (1980), “Major Tom (Coming Home)” appears on Schilling’s record Error in the System.

Hemingway Blue Clocks Green (1988)

Blue Clocks Green‘s song was on college radio, and (I think) a club hit.  A cheerful “new wave” pop tune with a dark lyric about Hemingway’s suicide.

Blue Clocks Green, "Hemingway" 12-inch

Rock Me Amadeus (Salieri Version Short) Falco (1985)

This is the closest to the “American Version” of Falco‘s song that I can find — it’s about a minute and a half longer, but it includes the spoken-word narrative of major events in Mozart’s life, and the other elements of the American release.  And, yes, the video is as ridiculous as the song.

Walk This Way (Instrumental) RUN-DMC with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry (1985)

The b-side to the 12” single, this is not strictly instrumental.  It’s absent RUN-DMC’s vocals but does include Steven Tyler’s vocal.  On the original record, the inner groove had just the beats.  So, when the needle reached the end, it simply repeated those beats endlessly.

RUN-DMC, "Walk This Way" 12-inch

And who can forget the video?

Well, that was fun.  Perhaps, in another post, I’ll share other forgotten (but still available) music from the 1980s: Big Pig, Royal Crescent Mob, Toni Childs, David & David, Screaming Blue Messiahs, Red Rider, and so many others….

Image credits: from my record collection except for Nena (Wikipedia).

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Radical Children’s Literature Now! (video)

Radical Children's Literature Now! -- title slide

On June 25th, Julia Mickenberg and I delivered “Radical Children’s Literature Now!” — the Francelia Butler Lecture at the 2011 Children’s Literature Association Conference in Roanoke, Virginia.  The video for that talk is now on-line.

For more information, see the bibliography we handed out to those in attendance.  Eventually, this lecture will appear on the Children’s Literature Association’s website.

Related content (updated 19 Nov. 2011):

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Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss Biography. Appendix B: We Are for Wallace

WE are for Wallace, 20 Oct. 1948: headerAt the risk of further alienating this blog’s modest readership, here is the second of four appendices cut from The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (forthcoming from University Press of Mississippi, 2012).  As is true of Appendix A, this one also registers Johnson’s alliance with the Popular Front, an anti-Fascist coalition of leftists, liberals, and even some moderates.  (For more on the subject, please see Michael Denning’s The Cultural Front [Verso, 1998]; for more on children’s literature and the Popular Front, check out Julia Mickenberg’s Learning from the Left: Children’s Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States [Oxford UP, 2006].)  At this point (1948), however, the onset of the Cold War had begun to unravel the Popular Front — Wallace, FDR’s former Vice President, now garnered the support primarily of those on the left.  Liberals and some moderates went for Truman.

The results of this presidential election (1948) confirm the Popular Front’s demise: Progressive Party candidate Wallace came in fourth, just behind Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.  Republican candidate Dewey came in second (as he had done in 1944), and the Democratic nominee Truman won.

Appendix B

WE Are for Wallace

[October 1948]

WE BELIEVE deeply that the words of Henry A. Wallace hold the promise of peace.

“There is no misunderstanding or difficulty between the U. S. A. and the U. S. S. R. which can be settled by force or fear and there is no difference which cannot be settled by peaceful, hopeful negotiations.  There is no American principle or public interest, and there is no Russian principle or public interest which would have to be sacrificed to end the cold war and open up the Century of Peace which the Century of the Common Man demands.”

WE BELIEVE with Henry Wallace that the major parties and their candidates — Thomas E. Dewey and Harry S. Truman — in bi-partisan alliance have brought us to the brink of war and fascism; that they represent in their policies the interests of the few at the expense of the many; that to a Democratic and a Republican Congress must be attributed inflation (Truman killed price control and the Republicans buried it); fear and intimidation (Truman’s Loyalty Order and the Republicans’ Thomas Committee); repression of labor (Truman charted the course for the Taft-Hartley law when he broke the railroad strike in 1946).

WE BELIEVE with Henry Wallace that America cannot be free until all men, regardless of race, color or creed, can live and work together without fear of discrimination.

WE BELIEVE with Henry Wallace that science, art, literature and education cannot flourish in an atmosphere of intimidation and policed opinion.

WE BELIEVE with Henry Wallace that the United Nations must be made effective, not by-passed or used by us or others, as a pawn in the game of power politics.

WE ARE AMERICANS loyal to our nation’s heritage.  We are deeply convinced that full realization of progress and freedom are possible for the people of this nation.  We believe that this is inherent in the program of policy of Henry A. Wallace.  As independents, and as artists, scientists and professionals, we are proud to pledge our support to his candidacy.

This advertisement is issued by the


Harlow Shipley, Chairman             Jo Davidson, Honorary Chairman

Victor Samrock, Treasurer

Don’t miss our Election Eve broadcast with Henry

Wallace, Glen Taylor and a host of celebrities.

Monday evening, Nov. 1st, 9:30 P. M.

over the American Broadcasting System

Bernice Abbott

Rev. Charles B. Ackley

Louis Adamic

Dr. Thomas Addis

Larry Adler

Gregory Ain

Prof. James W. Alexander

George Antheil

Edith Atwater

Prof. Irwin Ross Beuer

Marc Blitzstein

Kermit Bloomgarden

Peter Blume

Edward Bromberg

Richard Burgin

David Burliuk

Dr. Allan M. Butler

Dr. George D. Cannon

Morris Carnovsky

Vera Caspary

Edward Chodorov

Dr. S. W. Clausen

Nicolai Cikovsky

W. G. Clugston

Robert M. Coates

Lee J. Cobb

George Colouris

Betty Comden

Fanny Cook

Aaron Copland

Dr. Samuel Corson

Howard da Silva

Jo Davidson

Dr. John de Boer

Adolph Dehn

Martha Dodd

Prof. Dorothy W. Douglas

Olin Downes

Paul Draper

W. E. B. DuBois

Roscoe Dunjee

Prof. L. C. Dunn

Clifford J. Durr

Arnaud D’Usseau

Dr. Thomas Emerson

Lehman Engel

Philip Evergood

Prof. Henry-Pratt Fairchild

Fyke Farmer

Howard Fast

Prof. Joseph Fletcher

Leatrice Joy Gilbert

Jay Gorney

Morton Gould

James Gow

Charles P. Graham

William Gropper

Wrnest O. Grunsfeld

Robert Gwathmey

Prof. David Haber

Uta Hagen

Talbot Hamlin

Dashiell Hammett

E. Y. Harburg

Minna Harkavy

Prof. Fowler Harper

Dr. Marion Hathaway

Lillian Hellman

Joseph Hirsch

Ira Hirschman

Judy Holliday

Libby Holman

Mary Hunter

John Huston

Burl Ives

Sam Jaffe

Crockett Johnson

Dean Joseph L. Johnson

Reginald Johnson

Matthew Josephson

Robert Josephy

Garson Kanin

William Katzell

Nora Kaye

Stetson Kennedy

Robert W. Kenny

Rockwell Kent

Arthur Kober

Carl Koch

Howard Koch

Alfred Kreymborg

Alexander Laing

Millard Lampell

John Latouche

Richard Lauterbach

John Howard Lawson

James D. Le Cron

Canada Lee

Robert E. Lee

Alan Lipscott

Harry L. Lurie

Aline MacMahon

Norman Mailer

Albert Maltz

Thomas Mann

Fletcher Martin

John Martin

Prof. F. O. Matthiessen

Dr. Leo Mayer

Frederic G. Melcher

Lewis Milestone

Arthur Miller

Dr. Clyde R. Miller

Sam Moore

Prof. Philip Morrison

Willard Motley

Isamu Noguchi

Clifford Odets

Prof. Frank Oppenheimer

John O’Shaugnessy

Shaemas O’Sheel

Prof. Erwin Panofsky

Prof. Linus Pauling

I. Rice Pereira

S. J. Perelman

Jennings Perry

Minerva Pious

Abraham L. Pomerantz

Prof. Walter Rautenstrauch

Anton Refregier

Anne Revere

Bertha C. Reynolds

Mischa Richter

Wallingford Riegger

William M. Robson

Harold Rome

Prof. Theodor Rosebury

Norman Rosten

Muriel Rukeyser

Fred Saidy

Dr. Bela Schick

Artur Schnabel

Budd Schulberg

Prof. Frederick L. Schuman

Adrian Scott

Edwin Seaver

Ben Shahn

Artie Shaw

Herman Shulmin

Prof. Ernest J. Simmons

Louis Slobodkin

Maud Slye

Agnes Smedley

Moses Soyer

Raphael Soyer

Alfred K. Stern

Philip Van Doren Stern

I. F. Stone

Paul Strand

Prof. Dirk J. Struik

William M. Sweets

Arthur Szyk

Helen Tamiris

Louis Untermeyer

Mark Van Doren

Mary Van Kleeck

Pierre Van Paasen

Prof. Oswald Veblen

Prof. Eda Lou Walton

Lynd Ward

Theodore Ward

Prof. Colston E. Warne

Dr. Goodwin Watson

Max Weber

Charles Weidman

Dr. F. W. Went

Edward Weston

Frank W. Weymouth

Prof. Norbert Wiener

James Waterman Wise

Prof. Thomas Moody

Frank Lloyd Wright

William Zorach

Leane Zugsmith

. . . and thousands of other artists, scientists and professionals whom space does not permit listing.

If you agree with us, help spread this message in newspapers throughout the country and help broadcast Henry Wallace’s message to millions of Americans in a final Election Eve broadcast.

[Following the above sentence, the ad includes a form to clip and send — with a contribution — to the National Council of the Arts, Sciences and Professions]

Source: “WE are for Wallace,” advertisement, New York Times, 20 Oct. 1948, p. 32.

WE Are For Wallace, 20 Oct. 1948

Some on the above list wrote or illustrated books for young readers: In addition to Johnson, there’s Louis Slobodkin, Mischa Richter, and Lynd Ward.  Abraham L. Pomerantz was the father of future children’s author Charlotte Pomerantz.  Careful readers might also notice three of the group who would be known as “The Hollywood Ten“: John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, and Adrian Scott.

If you liked this post, you might find the following entries mildly intriguing, since all concern The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss:

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Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss Biography. Appendix A: American Committee for Spanish Freedom

Crockett Johnson studied typography from Frederic Goudy, Ruth Krauss learned about anthropology from Ruth Benedict, and they both knew Ad Reinhardt (who was a particular friend of Johnson’s).  Their acquaintances with the influential typographer, anthropologist, and abstract impressionist are all in the book — The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (forthcoming 2012). Because I’m fascinated by such intersections between people’s lives, here is the first of a series of connections I’ve had to omit.  Originally, I thought I might include these appendices, but the book is already longer than the publisher would like, and these would just take up more pages.

So, with links to relevant information about some of the names, here’s one on the American Committee for Spanish Freedom — a Popular Front group that opposed Franco’s fascists, and supported the Abraham Lincoln Brigades and others fighting for a democratic Spain.

Appendix A

American Committee for Spanish Freedom

55 West 42nd Street • New York 18, N.Y. • Lackawanna 4-9814

[December 1945]



Bishop Lewis O. Hartman


Dr. Ruth Nanda Anshen


S. L. M. Barlow


Hon. John M. Coffee


Bartley C. Crum


Allan Chase


Samuel J. Novick


Joseph Sweat




Thomas Bouchard

Dr. Louis Finger

Leon Pomerance

Martin Popper

Edward Robinson

Herbert A. Wise


Artists & Scientists Committee

Bennett Cerf

Olin Downes

Paula Laurence

Yella Pessl


Interfaith Committee

Rev. W. Ellis Davies

Dr. T. S. Harten

Dr. John A. Mackay

Rev. William Howard Melish

Dr. A. Clayton Powell, Jr.

Dr. W. Stanley Rycroft

Dr. Robert W. Searle


Labor Committee

Eugene P. Connolly

Joseph Curran

Jay Rubin


Women’s Committee

Mrs. Ferdinand de Bermingham

Mrs. Burton Emmett

Mrs. B. W. Huebsch

Alice Jayson

Mrs. George Marshall

Mrs. Lionel Perera, Jr.

Mrs. Vincent Sheehan



Rev. Melvin Abson

Rev. Charles B. Ackley

Louis Adamic

Samuel Hopkins Adams

James Luther Adams

Stella Adler

Marian Anderson

Claudio Arrau

Bishop J. C. Baker

Wade Crawford Barclay

S.N. Behrman

Albert Bein

William Rose Benet

Elmer A. Benson

Mrs. Nicolai Berezovsky

Leonard Bernstein

Alvah Bessie

Rev. L. M. Birkhead

Algernon D. Black

Anita Block

Isidore Blumberg

Dr. Ernst P. Boas

Alexander Brallowsky

Joseph Brainin

Van Wyck Brooks

Prof. Edwin Berry Burgum

Sam Burt

Merlyn A. Chaffel

Stewart Chaney

Jerome Chodorov

Thomas Christensen

Rev. Karl M. Chworowsky

Walter Van Tillburg Clark

Mrs. Alma Clayburgh

Charles Collins

Rev. T. C. Cooper

Aaron Copland

Bishop Fred P. Corson

Norman Corwin

William Cosgrove

John H. Cowles

Dr. Leo M. Davidoff

Jo Davidson

Rev. A. Powell Davies

M. R. Davis

Dale Dewitt

Howard Dietz

Dr. R. E. Diffendorfer

Dean Dixon

Mrs. Louis Dolivet

Guy Pene DuBois

Vernon Duke

Frederick May Eliot

Clifford Evans

William Feinberg

Lawrence Fernsworth

Jose Ferrer

Betty Field

Mrs. W. Osgood Field

Abram Flaxer

Eleanor Fowler

Charles Friedman

Walter Frisbie

Stephen H. Fritchman

William S. Gailmor

Hugo Gellert

Mortimer Gellis

Irving Gilman

Mrs. Harold K. Ginzburg

H. Glintemkamp

Louis Goldblatt

Mrs. Israel Goldstein

Ruth Gordon

D. W. Greene

James Griesi

Wiliam Gropper

Chaim Gross

Rev. Albert R. Hahn

E. Y. Harburg

Mrs. J. Borden Harriman

Moss Hart

The Very Rev. H. S. Hathaway

Mrs. William C. Hayes

Rev. Stanley B. Hazzard

Dr. I. W. Held

Lillian Hellman

Rev. Warren C. Herrick

George R. Hewlett

H. G. Hightower

Randall S. Hilton

Rev Chester E. Hodgson

Libby Holman

Leo Huberman

Alice Hughes

Rev. M. P. Huntington

Mrs. Raymond V. Ingersoll

Stanley M. Isaacs

Burl Ives

Nathan Jacobson

Sam Jaffe

Crockett Johnson

Albert E. Kahn

Aben Kandel

George S. Kaufman

Dr. Foster Kennedy

Rockwell Kent

James V. King

Alexander Kipnis

Dr. C. Franklin Koch

Rev. John M. Krumm

Mrs. James L. Laidlaw

Harold Lane

Wilbur Laroe, Jr.

Kenneth Leslie

Rabbi Israel Leventhal

Samuel Lewis

David Lord

Rev. Donald G. Lothrop

Louis Lozowick

Pierre Luboshutz

Dr. John A. MacCallum

Fritz Mahler

Albert Maltz

Alicia Markova

Benjamin C. Marsh

Elsa Maxwell

Dorothy McConnell

Bishop Francis J. McConnell

John T. McManus

Lewis Merrill

Nathan Milstein

Hortense Monath

Rev. G. Moore Morgan

Dr. John R. Mott

Zero Mostel

Morris Muster

Frederick N. Myers

Mrs. Richard Myers

Rabbi F. Neuman

Rev. William L. Nieman

Isamu Noguchi

Rev. Rowland F. Nye

Clifford Odets

Sarah Oppenheimer

Sono Osato

Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam

Jack Paley

Cyrus R. Pangborn

Rev. E. W. Parmelee

Rev. Edward L. Parsons

Rev. B. Pascale

Elliot Paul

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

Dr. John M. Pearson

Wilfrid Pelletier

W. W. Peters

A. C. Petty

Mishel Piastro

Gregor Piatigorsky

Dr. Louis W. Pitt

Rabbi Benjamin Plotkin

Dr. Gordon Poteat

Rabbi Julius J. Price

Michael J. Quill

Rev. David Ralston

Minnie F. Rands

Samson Raphaelson

Kenneth G. Read

Anton Refregier

Rev. Thomas Rehorn

Mrs. Bernard Reiss

Elmer Rice

Rev. B. C. Robeson

Raymond Robins

Mrs. Nathaniel Ross

Rev. John Saunders

Dr. Bela Schik

Mrs. William J. Schieffelin

Artur Schnabel

Mrs. M. Lincoln Schuster

Bernard Segal

Joseph Selly

Lisa Sergio

D. R. Sharpe

Dr. Guy Emery Shipler

William L. Shirer

Mrs. William L. Shirer

Herman Shumlin

Mrs. Kenneth F. Simpson

Dr. Joseph R. Sizoo

Edgar Snow

Dr. Ralph Sockman

Moses Soyer

Raphael Soyer

Dr. Sigmund Spaeth

Joseph Stack

Johannes Steel

Estelle M. Sternberger

Donald Ogden Stewart

Rev. Stanley I. Stuber

F. M. Swing

Genevieve Taggard

Alva W. Taylor

Frank E. Taylor

Max Torchin

Mark Van Doren

Pierre Van Passen

Erwin Wagner

Nym Wales

J. Raymond Walsh

Charles Weidman

Kurt Weill

Louis Weinstock

Henry N. Wieman

Rev. Claude Williams

James Waterman Wise

Mrs. Stephen S. Wise

Dr. Gregory Zilborg

Mrs. Gregory Zilborg

William Zorach

Source: letterhead and list of sponsors, on letter from Milton Wolff, National Commander, Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, to Miss Shirley Johnson (Rockwell Kent’s secretary), 6 Dec. 1945, reel 5155, frame 181-182, Rockwell Kent Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian.

If you liked this post, you might find the following entries marginally interesting, since all concern the creation of The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss:

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And Now We Are 1: Nine Kinds of Pie Retrospective, 2010-2011

Nine Kinds of Pie made its debut in July of 2010.  Looking back on the 158 posts I’ve done since then, here are nine of many subjects covered.

From Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955): "But there were all nine kinds of pie that Harold liked best."1. Children’s Literature. Since the blog takes its title from Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon, of course much has been devoted to stories for younger readers.  There have been pieces devoted to the works of Tim Egan, Lane Smith, Dr. Seuss, J.K. Rowling, Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash, among others.

2. Comics. Unsurprisingly, many of these posts concern Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby.  But Richard Thompson’s Cul de Sac, and political cartoons by Syd Hoff and William Gropper have also made appearances.

3. Music.  I thought I would post more mixes than I have done, but… I have posted a few — mostly themed ones.  There’s been a “Halloween Box Set,” a “Rapture Box Set,” a “Summer Box Set,” and a few Christmas mixes, among others.

4. Biography.  Chronicling the revisions of The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (forthcoming 2012), I’ve shared far more than is likely to interest readers.

5. Advice.  Most of this advice has been geared towards academe (such as How to Publish Your Article or Prograstigrading), but some of the publishing advice (such as How to Publish Your Book) would be useful to non-academics.

6. Academia.  The most popular of these was What Do Professors Do All Week?, a week-long series in which I chronicled just how a professor spends his or her workday… by chronicling exactly how I spent each day of February 19-25.

7. Brief Essays. Some of these will form part of longer works — for example, “Can Censoring a Children’s Book Remove Its Prejudices?”  Others will not, such as the brief opinion pieces like:

I’ve also posted a couple of reviews, such as those on Chris Van Allsburg’s Queen of the Falls, and Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated the Falls in a Ship of Her Own Making.

8. Humor. Items in this category overlap with items in other categories (cartoons, children’s books), but since there are 14 posts tagged humor, this appears to be developing as a theme.  Highlights: Remy Charlip’s It Looks Like Snow and How to Talk Nonsense (on a pedagogical experiment using nonsense).

9. Autobiography.  Inasmuch as bits of my life may be instructive to others, I’ve written a few pieces about me — many (possibly all) of these might be cross-listed with advice.  Some such posts include “Introvert Impersonates Extrovert” (on overcoming shyness), “My Book About Me” (on my first book), a pair of posts on moving from adjuncthood to professorland, and the blog’s inaugural post.

Are there any subjects that readers would like to see more of?  Since I don’t have a counter on this blog, comments are my only way of gauging a subject’s popularity.  (And, yes, I know I should install a counter.  Any suggestions?)

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Artists for FDR

To support President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1944 re-election campaign, Syd Hoff, Crockett Johnson, Lynd Ward, Hugo Gellert, William Gropper, and fourteen other artists illustrated this booklet.

The President's Speech (1944): cover, illustrated by Hugo Gellert

The text is FDR’s speech made before the Teamsters Union on September 23rd, 1944 — also known as the “Fala speech,” since it features his dog, Fala.

Here is Syd Hoff’s page.

The President's Speech (1944): illustration by Syd Hoff

Here is Crockett Johnson’s page.  You’ll note that he drew the famous Fala himself.

The President's Speech (1944): illustration by Crockett Johnson

All artists were members of the Independent Voters Committee of the Arts and Sciences for Roosevelt, a Popular Front alliance devoted to progressive causes.  Indeed, following the election, the group became the Independent Committee of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions (ICASP), which in December 1946 merged with the National Citizens Political Action Committee — becoming the Progressive Citizens of America (PCA).  The PCA became the Progressive Party, which ran Henry Wallace for President in 1948.

A long-time member of the Roosevelt administration, Wallace was FDR’s Vice President during his third term (1941-1945). He also served as Secretary of Agriculture (1933-1940), and Secretary of Commerce (1945-1946).  In that 1948 election, he came in fourth, just behind Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.  Dewey, who came in second in 1944, again came in second this year.  The winner was Truman, who had been President since FDR’s death in 1945.

A much earlier version of The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (forthcoming from UP Mississippi in 2012) included appendices, listing members of progressive organizations to which Johnson belonged.  I find constellations like that to be fascinating.  Due to space, these appendices have been cut.  But I plan to post them at some point.

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“I didn’t want her to be dark like me.”

Fascinating trailer for Dark Girls, a new documentary on skin color, self-image, beauty, ideology.

When I teach Herron and Cepeda’s Nappy Hair or Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham –1963, I talk about how these books respond to culturally “white” ideals of beauty.  The former celebrates black hair.  In the latter book, after By gets a conk, his punishment is getting his head shaved.  As his mother asks him, “Did those chemicals give you better-looking hair than me and your daddy and God gave you?”

But this documentary is much more powerful.  When I teach those books (and others) in future, I’m going to share this clip from Dark Girls.

Dark Girls: movie poster

Thanks to Betsy Bird’s Fuse #8 for the tip.  For more information on Dark Girls, check out the film’s website.

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (2011)The problem with a blurb from Neil Gaiman on a cover is that, invoking Gaiman, it inevitably diminishes the book by comparison.  This is not the book’s fault.  Gaiman is one of our most gifted contemporary writers.  Catherynne M. Valente may not be, but I wouldn’t even be thinking about the comparison if Gaiman’s endorsement were absent from the cover. Her The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is clever, well-plotted, engaging, and inventive.  It’s not Gaiman, but it is good.

Better points of comparison are L. Frank Baum and J.M. Barrie.  As Barrie does in Peter and Wendy, Valente several times calls children “heartless,” and deploys a narrative voice that shifts between third person, second person, and first person — though it stays mostly in third. As Barrie’s narrator does, Valente’s invokes that heartlessness to consider the child’s desire to abandon home for fairyland: “September did not even wave good-bye. One ought not to judge her: All children are heartless.”  That said, and again following Barrie’s example, Valente does invite us to judge her protagonist.  As many parents are, these narrators are torn between granting the child her freedom and keeping her close by.

Instead of being transported from Kansas via tornado, 12-year-old September gets whisked away from Nebraska by the Leopard of Little Breezes.  Also bringing to mind the Oz books, Valente’s fantastic characters combine nature and machinery in ways that recall Baum’s. There’s Lye, a golem made of soap; Gleam, a lamp that speaks through messages on its shade; and herds of velocipedes (free-range bicycles). Valente also seems to have taken seriously Baum’s goal (in his introduction to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) to strive for a “a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out.”  Valente’s tone suggests that the “good” characters will not come to any harm.  That said, and as is also true of Baum, by about halfway through the book, much that threatens the heroine seems to revoke the promise of a nightmare-free story.  As the narrator observes, “I have tried to be a generous narrator and care for my girl as best I can. I cannot help that readers will always insist on adventures, and though you can have grief without adventures, you cannot have adventures without grief.”

In discussing a few of the many works that likely inspired The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, I do not mean here to deride the book as “derivative.”  All art derives from other art.  What makes something feel original is the way in which it combines all that inspired it.  Neil Gaiman’s books do this work seamlessly. Transformed by his imagination, his influences feel organic.  They don’t feel like influences at all.  To read a Gaiman novel is to get caught up in his world — you may catch allusions to Norse mythology, or Victorian writer Lucy Clifford, but the feeling is something fashioned out of whole cloth.

This is not entirely the case with Valente, though the garrulous narrator may be partially the cause.  Fond of shifting out of third person and offering editorial comments, the narrative voice prevents readers from becoming too absorbed in the story.  Pushing its audience way from such absorption, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making instead gives them space to think about the narrative, the allusions, the books that seem to be Valente’s favorites.  As fans of Lemony Snicket know, such a narrator can also be fun to spend time with.  He (or she) treats the reader like a confidante, suggesting an intimate, even privileged, relationship with the person holding the book.  Valente’s narrator is not only good company; she (or he) is wise, witty, and unpredictable.  As she (he?) admits late in the novel, “I am a sly and wicked narrator. If there is a secret to be plumbed for your benefit, Dear Reader, I shall strap on a head-lamp and a pick-ax and have at it.”

In this review, I’ve deliberately avoided “secrets”: narrative is one of the many pleasures of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairlyand in a Ship of Her Own Making.  So, you’ll find no spoilers here.  Featuring a female lead who is both thoughtful and brave, the book is a fantasy that offers a meditation on fantasy’s tropes.  As Dumbledore does in the Harry Potter series, this novel too dismisses the idea that its hero is a “chosen one.”  Late in the book, one of September’s allies remarks, “You are not the chosen one, September.  Fairyland did not choose you — you chose yourself.”

Should you choose to read Valente’s novel, you’ll find it a smart, metafictive tale, with plenty of adventure, humor, and insight.  Neil Gaiman calls it “A glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian fairy tale, done with heart and wisdom.”  He’s right.

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Brisbane: City of Free, Public Art

Coming from a U.S. state whose governor is working tirelessly to defund the arts, I’ve been delighted to see so much art in Brisbane, Australia — most of it at no cost to the visitor.  GoMA’s Surrealism exhibit requires a ticket, but the rest of the museum has no admission fee.  Back in the States, MoMA has a $20.00 admission fee.

But, in Brisbane, you can…

Brisbane sculpture: guitar pick grande

… carry a giant guitar pick on your back

Brisbane sculpture: great big ball

… kick a giant silver ball

Brisbane sculpture: spaceship in at city botanic gardens

… play peek-a-boo with a spaceship from the future

Brisbane sculpture: giant angular alien, from near art museum

… or dance with giant angular metal.

All at no cost to you!

And I failed to get a picture of the disemboweled mechanical kangaroos, but those are nifty, too.

Brisbane sculpture: kangaroo (photo by David Jackmanson)

Above photo by David Jackmason, webmaster of

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The exquisite corpse will drink the new cappuccino

Half-way through the “Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams” exhibit at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) here in Brisbane, museum-goers encounter this:

Exquisite Corpse Bar at GoMA

A clever riff on the Surrealist game that exploits the mysteries of accidental juxtapositions, this mid-exhibit bar also offered a welcome rest to travel-weary visitors (such as your humble narrator, who visited the exhibit following a 15-hour flight from Dallas-Ft. Worth).  Should you find yourself in Brisbane prior to 2 October 2011, the GoMA exhibit on Surrealism is excellent, bringing in not only the usual suspects (Marcel Duchamp, Giorgio De Chirico, Max Ernst, Jean Arp, René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray), but also some whose art is not as well known (Victor Brauner, André Masson, Dora Maar) and Surrealism’s legacy in works by Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Dorothea Tanning and Joseph Cornell.

A particular strength of the exhibit are the half-dozen or so surrealist films interspersed (and continuously running) throughout the exhibit, such as the classic (and disturbing) Buñuel-Dalí collaboration Un Chien Andalou:

GoMA is also hosting a range of events in conjunction with the exhibit.

Surrealism for KidsSince I’m in town to attend the International Research Society for Children’s Literature’s bi-annual conference, I should also mention that the exhibit has created kid-friendly captions for some of the artworks, and has created an interactive on-line component, The Surrealist Chronicle.  Available for perusing near the Exquisite Corpse snack bar (pictured above) and for sale at the museum store, the book Surrealism for Kids also invites children to deploy surrealist techniques to explore their creativity.

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