Friday, September 3, 2010

great bildungsroman

1923 1st ed. english print, felix salten, bambi
oh hi, little tenders.  it's going to be a day full of rain and i just love it.  what sounds!

before i get started, i wanted to let you know that there is a new theme for the art of the letter - animals!  join the group, get addresses of friends and strangers and send them something in the mail!  art, craft, photo, cd's, tapes, presents, letters!

so, the other day i discovered my father's 1928 first edition english print [!] of felix salten's bambi: a life in the woods [Bambi. Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde].  being the animal lover that i am, i could have burst with joy.  this first edition has beautiful original prints in it [they look more like stamps than woodcuts, but i'll never complain].

as a young narrator, my favourite movie was disney's bambi.  i know that you hipsters and smart folks are probably sitting several soap boxes high [alliteration!] ready to poo poo me.  but bambi is a classic and i defy you to find any fault in the story of the beautiful young roe buck.  bambi is the definition of bildungsroman.

now, the movie is one thing. but the book.  o the book!  it's just so lovely.  so beautiful.  i can hardly explain to you the bliss one feels when reading about wild forest creatures and the passing of seasons.

before beginning this book, however, i had already become wildly misanthropic. like dian fossey. serious stuff. i've always felt rather loathsome about animal killers.  but this novel is making me think very vile things about we humans and our capacity to injure innocent animals.  why do they do it?  stop it!  animals are beautiful and just because they don't need our gentle touches doesn't mean they don't deserve our honour and respect.

but less about badness and more about joy! read this book!  i will run the risk of copyright infringement and offer you a tasty little snippet of the easy-to-read story.  this is chapter VIII, where a conversation between two leaves takes place on the cusp of a new season:

the leaves were falling from the great oak at the meadow's edge.  they were falling from all the trees.
one branch of the oak reached high above the others and stretched far out over the meadow.  two leaves clung to its very tip.
"it isn't the way it used to be," said one leaf to the other.
"no," the other leaf answered.  "so many of us have fallen off to-night we're almost the only ones left on our branch."
"you never know who's going to go next," said the first leaf.  "even when it was warm and the sun shone, a storm or a cloudburst would come sometimes, and many leaves were torn off, though they were still young.  you never know who's going to go next."
"the sun seldom shines now," sighed the second leaf, "and when it does it gives no warmth.  we must have warmth again."
"can it be true," said the first leaf, "can it really be true, that others come to take our places when we're gone and after them still others, and more and more?"
"it is really true," whispered the second leaf.  "we can't even begin to imagine it, it's beyond our powers."
"it makes me very sad," added the first leaf.
they were silent a while. then the first leaf said quietly to herself,  "why must we fall?..."
the second leaf asked, "what happens to us when we have fallen?"
"we sink down....."
"what is under us?"
the first leaf answered, "i don't know, some say one thing, some another, but nobody knows."
the second leaf asked, "do we feel anything, do we know anything about ourselves when we're down there?"
the first leaf answered, "who knows? not one of all those down there has ever come back to tell us about it."
they were silent again.  then the first leaf said tenderly to the other, "don't worry so much about it, you're trembling."
"that's nothing," the second leaf answered, "i tremble at the least thing now.  i don't feel so sure of my hold as i used to."
"let's not talk any more about such things." said the first leaf.
the other replied, "no, we'll let be.  but - what else shall we talk about?"  she was silent, but when on after a little while, "which of us will go first?"
"there's still plenty of time to worry about that," the other leaf assured her.  "let's remember how beautiful it was, how wonderful, when the sun came out and shone so warmly that we thought we'd burst with life.  do you remember?  and the morning dew, and the mild and splendid nights..."
"now the nights are dreadful," the second leaf complained, "and there is no end to them."
"we shouldn't complain," said the first leaf gently.  "we've outlived many, many others."
"have i changed much?" asked the second leaf shyly but determinedly.
"not in the least," the first leaf assured her. "you only think so because i've got to be so yellow and ugly.  but it's different in your case."
"you're fooling me,"  the second leaf said.
"no, really," the first leaf exclaimed eagerly, "believe me, you're as lovely as the day you were born.  here and there may be a little yellow spot but it's hardly noticeable and only makes you handsomer, believe me.:
"thanks," whispered the second leaf, quite touched.  "i don't believe you, not altogether, but i think you because you're so kind, you've always been so kind to me.  i'm just beginning to understand how kind you are."
"hush," said the other leaf, and kept silent herself for she was too troubled to talk any more.
then they were both silent.  hours passed.
a moist wind blew, cold and hostile, through the tree-tops.
"ah, now," said the second leaf, "i...." then her voice broke off. she was torn from her place and spun down.
winter had come.


  1. First edition! very nice.

    In my lab we started putting a 'word of the day' on our big whiteboard. My first contribution was 'bildungsroman'. Trying to balance out the science.

    /cool story bro

  2. Ahhh, first editions with original heart's aflutter ;) I love how old books smell and how you have to turn each page so gingerly. Cool excerpt. :)

    m sky

  3. eric - words of the day are great! i'm so happy that you are a contributor. i also wish we worked together again.

    ms. sky - old book smell is the best smell. so earthy. so sexy!