Brain Pickings

Muck-Out Monday 10/14/14


REAL mucking out (or: what we do for fun in central PA)

Notices about posts from blogs that I follow have been accumulating in my inbox for a couple of months now, mostly ignored. Fall, which is a(nother) crazy time around here during an ordinary year, is even more nuts this year by virtue of a panoply of transitions in my family of origin, all taking place 1000 miles away. (I bow, alternately, to the remove that those 1000 miles afford me and to the gift of long distance phone service).

This morning I decided to wade into the muck and see what rose to the surface: the good stuff should have staying power, and should still be good if I read it a few weeks late, even in the blogosphere, right? And so, a little sharing…

First off, there was my inaugural notice from Maria Popova’s fabulous Brain Pickings. I am truly smitten. It included a great reminder about independent Brooklyn publishing house, Enchanted Lion (via Anne Bertier’s Wednesday) and another well-timed short list, “What Books Do for the Human Soul”.



The husband and wife who owned our farm house before the previous owners.

A couple nice posts about the importance of the NAMES we give our characters grabbed me too. This summer my kids and I went name-hunting at an old, country cemetery up the road from our place in central PA. I have fond memories of traipsing around Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philly on a similar quest, years ago, when my sister was first pregnant — and also of doing rubbings of tombstones at some point in my childhood. The practice got validation in both Pat Zietlow Miller’s post on the new, sweet blog, Picture Book Builders, and then in another by Alison Potoma at Writers’ Rumpus (Marianne Knowles, who coordinates Writers’ Rumpus, was the first non-friend, non-family, full-on-stranger to subscribe to Hmmmmm, so she has a special seat at my imaginary kidlit writers’ table). Both offer various examples of how specific name choices work, and are nicely instructive.

Finally, Writers’ Rumpus also hosted a nice piece about what Joyce Audy Zarins calls “Naturalized Diversity”. The bio-metaphor lured me in, and compelling conversation followed. One of the frustrations evident in those NYTimes Op Eds last March by Walter Dean and Christopher Myers and the #weneeddiversebooks hubbub that came later in the spring, was that the conversation about diversity in children’s books has moved so little in so many years: we are still struggling with this most basic problem of under-representation. Zarins — and Matt de la Pena, who she quotes — offers hope in the form of this idea of a future when there is more space for books to move from being about diversity, to simply being diverse, reflecting the worlds we live in.

Meanwhile: I do actually realize that it’s Tuesday today, not Monday. But yesterday was a holiday so today felt like Monday, plus I liked the alliteration; given that there is so much to read, and that I only just began to wade in, I’ll probably be doing this again some real Monday soon.

Tove Jansson and Too-ticky

“Supreme Court Clears Way for Gay Marriage in 5 States”

So read the NY Times message that popped up on my phone this morning — right as I read Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings post (thanks for the forward, Deenah) from last week: “Too-ticky’s Guide To Life: Wisdom on Uncertainty, Presence and Self-Reliance from Beloved Children’s Book Author Tove Jansson”. The dominoes keep falling — hallelujah!


(my desk-dwelling Moomintroll)

I only encountered Tove Jansson (1914-2001) as an adult, and read a bunch of Moomintroll books to my kids (Finn Family Moomintroll, Comet in Mooninland, Tales from Moominvalley, Moominvalley in November…). Somehow, though, we missed Moominland Midwinter and so, apparently, also gypped ourselves of a fuller acquaintance with Popova’s favorite Jansson character, Too-ticky

The delightful and wise Too-ticky, it turns out, is based on Jansson’s partner/spouse, Tuulikki Pietila. Both were women — hardly the thing in Jansson’s day. Having just read about the Tuulikki/Too-ticky connection, I got a little shiver when the NYT news byte appeared.

It is a lovely post — romantic and smart and full of philosophical Too-ticky quotes — and touches on all sorts of ‘important stuff’, redirecting readers to myriad links that quickly reveal Popova’s Brain Pickings as a rabbit hole of the best sort. Popova is a broad reader, writer and thinker (bio here). Of course: the fact that she mushes kidlit right in there with her grown-up musings and book picks certainly adds to the blog’s charm. (Search “children’s books” there; a bounty awaits!)