Mann, wer hätte das gedacht, dass es einmal soweit kommt #PlagueSongs, no. 21

The balloons are not red, and there is no toy shop. The narrator doesn’t dream of red balloons either. But, like its English-language counterpart (“99 Red Balloons”) Nena’s “99 Luftballons” (1983) is about an accidental, apocalyptic war triggered by 99 balloons. Luft means air, and ballon means balloon. So, literally, a luftballon is an air…

Crockett Johnson Tells the Story of Money

Today is the 111th birthday of Crockett Johnson (1906-1975). To celebrate, let’s take a deep dive in his oeuvre — looking at one of his lesser-known books, This Rich World. The popular story is that Crockett Johnson began creating books for children when he illustrated Ruth Krauss’s The Carrot Seed (1945). This is a compelling…

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

At 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…

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…

The Trauma Games

War is hell.  If General Sherman (and, I expect, many others) hadn’t said it first, I suspect Suzanne Collins might have chosen those three words as a subtitle for her Hunger Games trilogy.  As its predecessors did, Mockingjay dramatizes the physical and emotional consequences of war.  It’s especially adept at displaying the scars invisible to those of…