Wednesday, September 28, 2016

61 Books: #47

The project: to read 61 books, of whatever sort—short, long; literature, schlock; prose, poetry: you name it—before December 4, 2016.

The first ten books can be seen here. The second ten are here. Nos. 21–46 are below this post.

47. Alessandro Sanna, Pinocchio: The Origin Story (2016) (9/28/16)
I subscribe to a wonderful website called Brain Pickings, by "cartographer of meaning" Maria Popova. It features fabulous book reviews about (to narrow it down to one thing) the creative process, complete with long, thought-provoking quotations and beautiful illustrations. The other week she wrote about a picture book called The River by Italian Alessandro Sanna, about the Po and the people who live on it, and about the seasons of the river. In that review she mentioned a newer book of his: Pinocchio: The Origin Story. The title seized my imagination. I ordered it.

Maria's review of Pinocchio is lovely, so I'd strongly suggest you check it out. Me, I'm just going to quote from the author's foreword to the book, which presents the premise and inspiration so beautifully.

But the point of the book is Sanna's luminous watercolor-and-ink illustrations, which you get a small taste of in the book's cover. Absolutely exquisite. They tell a story of creation: a genesis myth. They also reflect in advance the story of the wooden boy who could tell no lies.

Here's Sanna's brief foreword (edited down very slightly):
I created the images for this book because I felt I had to release an uncontainable energy.

For several years, I have been visiting children at the pediatric hospital in Turin, Italy, where I encountered the eyes and hands of very fragile children. Children made of glass. The strength of these children and their parents sent me into an invisible parallel world made of waiting, sleepless nights, and hopes hanging by a thread.

There was one child in particular, Gabriele, with whom I was very close. He undertook a voyage that was unwanted but inevitable. I gazed at the sky for a while before figuring out how to channel the energy of this experience into a book. Then, one winter's day, from the window of a train, I saw a tree embracing a branch shaped like a human being. . . .

The next day I drew that tree with the branch innumerable times. A few weeks later I realized that the branch was one of those fragile children I had encountered at the hospital, and it was also the soul of Pinocchio before he became a marionette. I carefully reread Collodi's Pinocchio, and I began a journey [composed] of images that brought me to the dawn of time, when there was nothing but primordial land that had yet to write its story.

In this way, a tree grows. Maybe it's the very first one. The tree is hit by lightning and a branch cracks off; the branch becomes animate and goes to greet the world on its own little legs. In that world there are some characters who are recognizable form the original Pinocchio. The are characters yet to be born, who live in the mysterious limbo that comes before each story, before life. At a certain point, the branch puts down roots in fertile land and starts to bloom. It grows into a tree. In the fall, a farmer will come to get one of its branches, from which a marionette will be born.

The end of the book coincides with the beginning of the story that we all know.

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