On My Nightstand: Associate Editor Naomi Kirsten
I will begin with The Girl Scouts—a paragraph from the 1913 handbook, How Girls Can Help Their Country:
Wherever you go you will have the choice of good reading and bad reading, and since what you read has a lasting effect on your mind, try to read the good and skip the bad. You will not find that trashy novels do you any good… If you find that you are tempted by reading rubbish, it is easy to stop doing so. Once you know what your fault is, you can fight it squarely. ‘All your faults are gaining on you every hour that you do not fight them.’—Ruskin.”
Chronicle’s Girl Scout Vintage Badge Journal (right).
When I think about what “good reading” means to me, it is literature that takes me somewhere, whether internally (it makes me understand something about myself), or literature that shows me another way to see. And “good reading” is often re-reading: finding my way backs to books I discovered years ago. I wouldn’t say that reading is a pastime—it’s up there with breathing.
I found this handbook while visiting the Girl Scouts archive in New York last winter. (Here at Chronicle Books, I’ve been developing a stationery program with Design Director Jennifer Tolo Pierce and Production Lead Wendy Thorpe to coincide with the organization’s 100th Anniversary this March.)
Girl Scout Vintage Badge Journal proofs.
This handbook is certainly a product of its time, but there is also relatable wisdom (and humor).
Like this passage: Humility, or being humble, was one of the things which was practiced by the knights; that is to say, that, although they were generally superior to other people in fighting or campaigning, they never allowed themselves to swagger about it. So don’t swagger.”
The handbook makes me wish I knew how to tie knots—the Girl Scouts of 1913 did: the fisherman’s knot and the slip knot, the clove hitch and the sheep shank. The Girl Scouts of 100 years ago also knew how to provision a camp and how to tell time by the stars, how to make a sundial with a flower and how to cure wasp stings with groundsel—midge-fly bites with Listerine and Eucalyptus. They also knew how to “Secure a Burglar With Eight Inches of Cord”:
Make a slip-knot at each end of your chord. Tie the burglar’s hands behind him by passing each loop over his little fingers. Place him face downwards and bend his knees. Pass both feet under the string, and he will be unable to get away.
I seem to always be reading an essay from Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem. I like her writing style and this collection’s focus on California. “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.” (The beginning of “Goodbye to All That.”) And then there is this one-word sentence from the essay “I Can’t Get That Monster Out of My Mind”: “So.”
I’d like to use that someday.
I have read, reread, and continue to read Drawn & Quarterly’s collection of Tove Jansson’s comic strips, strips that ran in the London Evening Standard throughout the 1950’s. Although characters from Jansson’s children’s series are featured, the comic strips were written for an adult audience: A crate of whisky washes ashore and Moominpappa is accused of smuggling; Moomintroll is X-rayed against his will, and the doctor’s assessment is: “Just as I thought. Pernicious naivete and acute chronic idealism.” (This could be said of all of the Moomins.)
In another strip, the characters decide to live a “free life” which, for one of them, entails heading up a tree with a pillow, a bottle of wine, and an Agatha Christie novel. All is well until everything inevitably spirals; the notion of “freedom” (like love, living in a lighthouse, having a maid, and “going Rococo” in the other strips) turns out to be complicated at best. Chaotic is more like it, and the chaos is the perfect impetus for the Moomins to go back to the beginning: a life of simplicity, and the acceptance of things as they are.
I am also reading Moominland Midwinter, one of the eight novels in Jansson’s Moomin series. Moomintroll awakes from hibernation to find his family still asleep, and they do not intend to wake up until spring. He ventures out into the snow and finds one of the characters, Too-Ticky, gazing up at a serene winter sky, singing to herself. “What song is that?” Moomintroll asks. Too-Ticky explains:
“[The] refrain is about the things one can’t understand. I’m thinking about the aurora borealis. You can’t tell if it really exists or if it just looks like existing. All things are so very uncertain, and that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured.”
There are moments like these throughout the books, and I find them beautiful.
Chronicle’s Moomin Matching Game.
When I say that I have been enjoying the second issue of Lucky Peach, what I mean is that I’m a fan of the issue’s 45 fruit stickers.
Since I edit projects for children, stickers come up quite often as a possible component. It is not often that stickers are included in age-appropriate books or magazines that I read.
Just yesterday, the second galleys for a Fall 2012 project I’m working on was routed (sticker sheet included):
And advances for a Spring 2012 project, Let’s Go to the Farmer’s Market, recently came in, a project that was once a contender for stickers, but the team ultimately decided against it. The strawberry-themed bag, however, was the perfect place for the Lucky Peach T.S. Eliot-themed sticker.
So. Of course, the sticker inspired me to revisit the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (“Shall I part my hair behind?/Do I dare to eat a peach?”). I hadn’t read the poem in a while, and it felt good to read it again.
It always does.
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Latest posts by Naomi Kirsten (see all)
- A Conversation with Anders Arhoj, Author of Find Me: A Hide-and-Seek Book - September 14, 2017
- An Editor’s Trip to Japan and the Projects That Inspired Her - November 11, 2015
- A Conversation with The Land of Lines’ Victor Hussenot - June 22, 2015
6 Books To Celebrate African American History All Year LongFebruary 12th, 2019
13 Questions with Young Adult Author Kayla CaganNovember 5th, 2018
6 Picture Books That Make Parents Laugh, TooOctober 8th, 2018
13 Questions with Illustrator Shawn HarrisOctober 8th, 2018
7 Interactive Children’s Books To Shake Up StorytimeOctober 2nd, 2018