Virginia Woolf Offers Gentle Advice on “How One Should Read a Book”

virginia woolf list

I am priv­i­leged to have grown up in a house filled with books. I don’t remem­ber learn­ing to read; I sim­ply recall books—those that felt beneath me, those that seemed for­ev­er beyond com­pre­hen­sion. No one taught me how to read—by which I mean no one told me what to attend to in books, what to ignore; what to love, what to scorn. The shelves in my home, school, and local library were a wilder­ness, and I was left to carve my own paths through their thick­ets.

That all changed when I got to col­lege, then grad­u­ate school, where I found var­i­ous crit­i­cal move­ments, lit­er­ary the­o­ries, and philo­soph­i­cal schools, and was com­pelled to choose between their meth­ods, pol­i­tics, and pro­hi­bi­tions. Read­ing became a stren­u­ous activ­i­ty, a heavy intel­lec­tu­al exer­cise in which I felt those crit­ics and the­o­rists always look­ing over my shoul­der. Those who have done inten­sive study in the human­i­ties may sym­pa­thize: After­ward, I had to relearn how to read with­out an agen­da.

Such is the kind of unfet­tered read­ing Vir­ginia Woolf rec­om­mends in an essay titled “How Should One Read a Book?”, pub­lished in a series called The Com­mon Read­er—a title, in fact, of two col­lec­tions, the first pub­lished in 1925, the sec­ond in 1932. Woolf wrote these essays for lay read­ers, not schol­ars, and many were pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished in venues like The Nation, Vogue, and The Yale Review. In them, Woolf’s infor­mal inves­ti­ga­tions of writ­ers like Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, Christi­na Ros­set­ti, and Thomas Hardy—writes a 1925 New York Times review—do not “put the author in the atti­tude of a defend­er or an expos­i­tor of cer­tain trends in lit­er­a­ture.”

How Should One Read a Book?” appears at the end of the sec­ond series of The Com­mon Read­er. The essay “cau­tions,” writes Maria Popo­va, “against bring­ing bag­gage and pre-con­ceived notions to your read­ing” and abjures a for­mal, crit­i­cal approach:

After all, what laws can be laid down about books? The bat­tle of Water­loo was cer­tain­ly fought on a cer­tain day; but is Ham­let a bet­ter play than Lear? Nobody can say. Each must decide that ques­tion for him­self. To admit author­i­ties, how­ev­er heav­i­ly furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what val­ue to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spir­it of free­dom which is the breath of those sanc­tu­ar­ies. Every­where else we may be bound by laws and con­ven­tions — there we have none.

Though her­self a more than able schol­ar and crit­ic, Woolf does not rec­om­mend that her read­ers become so. “The only advice,” she writes, “that one per­son can give anoth­er about read­ing is to take no advice, to fol­low your instincts, to use your own rea­son, to come to your own con­clu­sions.” That said, how­ev­er, she feels “at lib­er­ty to put for­ward a few ideas and sug­ges­tions” that we are free to take or leave. She offers her guide­lines to aid enjoy­ment, not sti­fle it, and to help us sort and sift the “mul­ti­tudi­nous chaos” we encounter when con­front­ed with gen­res, peri­ods, and styles of every type.

“Where,” Woolf asks, “are we to begin?” Below, in brief, find a few of her “ideas and sug­ges­tions,” offered with all of the care­ful caveats above:

  • “Since books have classes—fiction, biog­ra­phy, poetry—we should sep­a­rate them and take from each what it is right that each should give us.”

Most com­mon­ly we come to books with blurred and divid­ed minds, ask­ing of fic­tion that it shall be true, of poet­ry that it shall be false, of biog­ra­phy that it shall be flat­ter­ing, of his­to­ry that it shall enforce our own prej­u­dices. If we could ban­ish all such pre­con­cep­tions when we read, that would be an admirable begin­ning. Do not dic­tate to your author; try to become him. Be his fel­low-work­er and accom­plice. If you hang back, and reserve and crit­i­cise at first, you are pre­vent­ing your­self from get­ting the fullest pos­si­ble val­ue from what you read.

  • “Per­haps the quick­est way to under­stand the ele­ments of what a nov­el­ist is doing is not to read, but to write; to make your own exper­i­ment with the dan­gers and dif­fi­cul­ties of words.”

Recall, then, some event that has left a dis­tinct impres­sion on you — how at the cor­ner of the street, per­haps, you passed two peo­ple talk­ing. A tree shook; an elec­tric light danced; the tone of the talk was com­ic, but also trag­ic; a whole vision, an entire con­cep­tion, seemed con­tained in that moment…. When you attempt to recon­struct it in words, you will find that it breaks into a thou­sand con­flict­ing impres­sions…. Then turn from your blurred and lit­tered pages to the open­ing pages of some great nov­el­ist — Defoe, Jane Austen, Hardy. Now you will be bet­ter able to appre­ci­ate their mas­tery.

  • “We can read [biogra­phies and mem­oirs] with anoth­er aim, not to throw light on lit­er­a­ture, not to become famil­iar with famous peo­ple, but to refresh and exer­cise our own cre­ative pow­ers.”

The greater part of any library is noth­ing but the record of… fleet­ing moments in the lives of men, women, and don­keys. Every lit­er­a­ture, as it grows old, has its rub­bish-heap, its record of van­ished moments and for­got­ten lives told in fal­ter­ing and fee­ble accents that have per­ished. But if you give your­self up to the delight of rub­bish-read­ing you will be sur­prised, indeed you will be over­come, by the relics of human life that have been cast out to moul­der. It may be one let­ter — but what a vision it gives! It may be a few sen­tences — but what vis­tas they sug­gest!

Read the entire­ty of Woolf’s essay here to learn her nuanced view of read­ing. She con­cludes her essay with anoth­er gen­tle swipe at lit­er­ary crit­i­cism and rec­om­mends humil­i­ty in the com­pa­ny of lit­er­a­ture:

If to read a book as it should be read calls for the rarest qual­i­ties of imag­i­na­tion, insight, and judg­ment, you may per­haps con­clude that lit­er­a­ture is a very com­plex art and that it is unlike­ly that we shall be able, even after a life­time of read­ing, to make any valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to its crit­i­cism. We must remain read­ers.

Clear­ly Woolf did not think of read­ing as a pas­sive activ­i­ty, but rather one in which we engage our own imag­i­na­tions and lit­er­ary abil­i­ties, such as they are. But if we are not to crit­i­cize, not draw firm con­clu­sions, morals, life lessons, or philoso­phies from the books we read, of what use is read­ing to us?

Woolf answers the ques­tion with some ques­tions of her own: “Are there not some pur­suits that we prac­tice because they are good in them­selves, and some plea­sures that are final? And is not this among them?”

via Brain­Pick­ings

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take Vladimir Nabokov’s Quiz to See If You’re a Good Reader–The Same One He Gave to His Stu­dents

Vir­ginia Woolf Writes About Joyce’s Ulysses, “Nev­er Did Any Book So Bore Me,” and Quits at Page 200

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Vir­ginia Woolf

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

How to Send an E‑mail: A 1984 British Television Broadcast Explains This “Simple” Process

Ear­li­er this month, the world got news of the death of a man whose name many of us had nev­er heard but whose act of inno­va­tion shaped what we do every day. “When his­to­ri­ans of the future study the ways infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy affect­ed people’s lives in the late 20th cen­tu­ry,” said his Econ­o­mist obit­u­ary, “they will sure­ly recog­nise e‑mail as one of the most pro­found. Today, about 2.5m e‑mails are sent every sec­ond. The first e‑mail of all, though” — to be pre­cise, “the first mes­sage between ter­mi­nals attached to sep­a­rate CPUs, albeit that these two com­put­ers stood side-by-side in the same room” — “was sent 45 years ago by Ray Tom­lin­son.”

Fif­teen years after that qui­et­ly his­to­ry-mak­ing trans­mis­sion, e‑mail had evolved to the point that it had become a sub­ject in the news. This 1984 seg­ment of the Thames Tele­vi­sion com­put­er show Data­base shows how one ear­ly-adopt­ing cou­ple, Pat and Julian Green of north Lon­don, com­mu­ni­cate with the world by con­nect­ing their com­put­er to, of all things, the tele­phone line. “It’s sim­ple, real­ly,” says Julian, unplug­ging a British Tele­com cable from one sock­et and plug­ging it into a modem, plug­ging a dif­fer­ent wire from the modem into the first sock­et, switch­ing on the modem, and then hand-dial­ing the num­ber of a “main com­put­er” — with his rotary phone. “Extreme­ly sim­ple,” he reit­er­ates.

What can they do on Micronet, their ser­vice provider, once con­nect­ed? They might read the news, have a look at “reviews of the soft­ware that’s cur­rent­ly avail­able” and even down­load some of it, or use the fea­ture that Pat (in addi­tion to her use of the com­put­er for “keep­ing house­hold records, such as what I have in the freez­er, and people’s tele­phone num­bers and address­es,” as well as “a word proces­sor for my let­ters, which always come out per­fect now”) describes as most excit­ing of all: “the mail­box where I write to oth­er peo­ple.” We see how she can use this new elec­tron­ic mail to ask her doc­tor to refill a pre­scrip­tion, and even to send a mes­sage to the Data­base stu­dio.

All this must have intrigued the view­ers of the day, who, if they had their own com­put­ers at the ready, could even “down­load” soft­ware straight from the broad­cast by record­ing the tone that plays over the show’s end cred­its. (As long as their com­put­ers were BBC Micros, that is, at least in this par­tic­u­lar episode.) The past 32 years have seen enthu­si­asm for new tech­nol­o­gy spread all across the world, turn­ing us all, in some sense, into Pat and Julian Greens. Today we mar­vel at all what we can do with our smart­phones, devices that would’ve seemed mag­i­cal in 1984, but in three decades from now, even our cur­rent tech­no­log­i­cal lives will sure­ly look quaint­er than any­thing in the Data­base archives.

via Atlas Obscu­ra

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Inter­net Imag­ined in 1969

From the Annals of Opti­mism: The News­pa­per Indus­try in 1981 Imag­ines its Dig­i­tal Future

Where Is Tech­nol­o­gy Tak­ing Us?

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Peter Sellers Recites The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” in the Style of Shakespeare’s Richard III

“Now is the win­ter of our dis­con­tent….” If you know noth­ing else of Shakespeare’s Richard III, you’ll know this famous open­ing line, and it’s like­ly many of us know it through Lau­rence Olivier’s per­for­mance of Richard as a “melo­dra­mat­ic bad­die” in the famous 1955 film. If not, take a look at the clip below to famil­iar­ize your­self with Olivier’s dis­tinc­tive man­ner­isms and speech. The ref­er­ence may large­ly be lost these days, but in 1965, at the very height of The Bea­t­les’ fame, Olivier’s per­for­mance was still fresh in the minds of the TV view­ing pub­lic. And the mer­cu­r­ial Eng­lish come­di­an Peter Sell­ers put it to good use in a Bea­t­les-trib­ute vari­ety pro­gram called The Music of Lennon and McCart­ney that aired in the UK. In the clip above, Sell­ers recites the lyrics to “A Hard Day’s Night” in char­ac­ter as Olivier’s dandy­ish Richard.

Unsur­pris­ing­ly, Sell­ers and the Bea­t­les had hit it off right away when they were intro­duced by George Mar­tin, and as we showed you in a recent post, the come­di­an milked their lyrics for more mate­r­i­al, read­ing “She Loves You,” in a vari­ety of accents. Sell­ers’ ren­di­tion of “A Hard Day’s Night” was hard­ly the first Shake­speare­an turn for the band.

The pre­vi­ous year, they appeared in anoth­er vari­ety tele­vi­sion spe­cial called Around the Bea­t­les, “pro­duced con­cur­rent­ly,” writes Dan­ger­ous Minds, “while A Hard Day’s Night was being shot.” (Around the Bea­t­les was direct­ed by pro­duc­er and man­ag­er Jack Good, a “Shake­speare fan,” who also, it turns out, con­vinced rock­a­bil­ly star Gene Vin­cent to dress up like Richard III.) In this ear­li­er pro­gram, the band—always good sports about this kind of thing—dressed up in Shake­speare­an garb and staged a rau­cous per­for­mance of a scene from A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Peter Sell­ers Reads The Bea­t­les’ “She Loves You” in 4 Dif­fer­ent Accents: Dr. Strangelove, Cock­ney, Irish & Upper Crust

The Bea­t­les Sat­ur­day Morn­ing Car­toon Show: The Com­plete 1965–1969 Series

The 15 Worst Cov­ers of Bea­t­les Songs: William Shat­ner, Bill Cos­by, Tiny Tim, Sean Con­nery & Your Excel­lent Picks

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Harry Clarke’s Hallucinatory Illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s Stories (1923)


As you’ve prob­a­bly noticed if you’re a reg­u­lar read­er of this site, we’re big fans of book illus­tra­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly that from the form’s gold­en age—the late 18th and 19th century—before pho­tog­ra­phy took over as the dom­i­nant visu­al medi­um. But while pho­tographs large­ly sup­plant­ed illus­tra­tions in text­books, mag­a­zines, and news­pa­pers over the course of the 20th cen­tu­ry, works of fic­tion, which had been rou­tine­ly pub­lished in lav­ish­ly illus­trat­ed edi­tions, sud­den­ly became the fea­ture­less banks of words we know today. Though image-heavy graph­ic nov­els and com­ic books have thrived in recent decades, the illus­trat­ed lit­er­ary text is a rar­i­ty indeed.


Why did this change come about? “I real­ly don’t know,” writes Christo­pher Howse at The Tele­graph, but he points out that the era of illus­trat­ed fic­tion for grown-ups end­ed “after the death of the big Vic­to­ri­an nov­el­ists,” like Dick­ens and Trol­lope. Before adult pic­ture-books went out of style, sev­er­al now-famous artists made careers as book illus­tra­tors. When we think of the big names from the peri­od, we think of Aubrey Beard­s­ley and Gus­tave Doré, both of whom we’ve cov­ered heav­i­ly here. We tend not to think of Irish artist Har­ry Clarke—a rel­a­tive latecomer—but we should. Of the many incred­i­ble illus­tra­tions from famous works of lit­er­a­ture we’ve fea­tured here, my favorite might be Clarke’s 1926 illus­tra­tions of Goethe’s Faust.


So out-there are some of his illus­tra­tions, so delight­ful­ly night­mar­ish and weird, one is tempt­ed to fall back on that rather sopho­moric expla­na­tion for art we find dis­turb­ing: maybe he was on drugs! Not that he’d need them to con­jure up many of the images he did. His source mate­r­i­al is bizarre enough (maybe Goethe was on drugs!). In any case, we can def­i­nite­ly call Clarke’s work hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry, and that goes for his ear­li­er, 1923 illus­tra­tions of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mys­tery and Imag­i­na­tion as well, of which you can see a few choice exam­ples here.


Dublin-born Clarke worked as a stained-glass artist as well as an illus­tra­tor, and drew his inspi­ra­tion from the ear­li­er art nou­veau aes­thet­ic of Beard­s­ley and oth­ers, adding his own roco­co flour­ish­es to the elon­gat­ed forms and dec­o­ra­tive pat­terns favored by those artists. His glow­er­ing figures—including one who looks quite a bit like Poe him­self, at the top—suit the fever­ish inten­si­ty of Poe’s world to per­fec­tion. And like Poe, Clarke’s art gen­er­al­ly thrived in a seduc­tive­ly dark under­world filled with ghouls and fiends. Both of these pro­to-goths died young, Poe under mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances at age 40, Clarke of tuber­cu­los­es at 42.


Clarke’s illus­trat­ed edi­tion of Poe con­tained 8 full-col­or plates and 24 black and white illus­tra­tions. The Irish artist also notably illus­trat­ed edi­tions of the fairy tales of Hans Chris­t­ian Ander­sen and Charles Per­rault, with images that—as you might imagine—are like­ly to ter­ri­fy some sen­si­tive chil­dren. (See a few of them here.) You can pur­chase your own edi­tion of the Clarke-illus­trat­ed Poe here, re-released in 2008 by Calla Press. And to see all 24 of Clarke’s black and white plates, head over to 50 Watts.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Har­ry Clarke’s 1926 Illus­tra­tions of Goethe’s Faust: Art That Inspired the Psy­che­del­ic 60s

Oscar Wilde’s Play Salome Illus­trat­ed by Aubrey Beard­s­ley in a Strik­ing Mod­ern Aes­thet­ic (1894)

Gus­tave Doré’s Splen­did Illus­tra­tions of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” (1884)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Free M.I.T. Course Teaches You How to Become Bill Nye & Make Great Science Videos for YouTube

If I had my way, more aca­d­e­mics would care about teach­ing beyond the walls of the acad­e­my. They’d teach to a broad­er pub­lic and con­sid­er ways to make their mate­r­i­al more engag­ing, if not inspir­ing, to new audi­ences. You can find exam­ples out there of teach­ers who are doing it right. The heirs of Carl Sagan–Bri­an Greene, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Bill Nye–know how to light a spark and make their mate­r­i­al come alive on TV and YouTube. How they do this is not exact­ly a mys­tery, not after M.I.T. post­ed online a course called “Becom­ing the Next Bill Nye: Writ­ing and Host­ing the Edu­ca­tion­al Show.

Taught at M.I.T. over a month-long peri­od, Becom­ing the Next Bill Nye was designed to teach stu­dents video pro­duc­tion tech­niques that would help them “to engag­ing­ly con­vey [their] pas­sions for sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing, and/or math.” By the end of the course, they’d know how to script and host a 5‑minute YouTube show.

You can now find the syl­labus and all mate­ri­als for that course online at MIT’s Open­Course­Ware site. This includes all video lec­tures and class assign­ments. Or, if you pre­fer, you can get the video lec­tures straight from this YouTube playlist.

Becom­ing the Next Bill Nye will be added to our meta col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Carl Sagan Presents Six Lec­tures on Earth, Mars & Our Solar Sys­tem … For Kids (1977)

Watch the High­ly-Antic­i­pat­ed Evolution/Creationism Debate: Bill Nye the Sci­ence Guy v. Cre­ation­ist Ken Ham

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intel­li­gent Per­son Should Read

Actors from The Wire Star in a Short Film Adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s “The Gilded Six-Bits” (2001)

After the cult suc­cess of HBO’s grit­ty Bal­ti­more crime dra­ma, The Wire, the obses­sive­ness of the show’s fan­base became a run­ning joke. Devot­ed Wire-lovers brow­beat friends, fam­i­ly, and cowork­ers with the show’s many virtues. Wire fans became emo­tion­al­ly attached not only to the show’s char­ac­ters, but also to the actors who played them. Though I man­aged to shun Wire evan­ge­lists for a time, I too final­ly became a con­vert after its six-year run end­ed in 2008. Like many a fan I was thrilled to see actors Michael K. Williams and Michael B. Jor­dan land juicy post-Wire roles (and sad­dened to see some of the show’s oth­er fine actors seem to dis­ap­pear from view).

And, like many a fan, I also want­ed to know these actors’ back­sto­ries. What had they been up to before The Wire? We get one answer to that ques­tion above, in the adap­ta­tion of Zora Neale Hurston’s 1933 short sto­ry “The Gild­ed Six-Bits.” In the star­ring role, you’ll rec­og­nize The Wire’s (even­tu­al­ly) reformed ex-con Den­nis “Cut­ty” Wise, or Chad Cole­man, in his first star­ring role. Play­ing oppo­site him you’ll be hap­py to see your favorite wiseass, phi­lan­der­ing, cig­ar-chomp­ing detec­tive, Bunk More­land, or Wen­dell Pierce, who has land­ed many juicy roles of his own, both pre- and post-Wire. (Here, play­ing a wiseass, cig­ar-chomp­ing wom­an­iz­er.) Adapt­ed and direct­ed by author and film­mak­er Book­er T. Mat­ti­son, the short film debuted on Show­time in 2001.

The sto­ry is an ear­ly exam­ple of Hurston’s genius, writ­ten four years before the pub­li­ca­tion of her break­out nov­el Their Eyes Were Watch­ing God and two years before her ground­break­ing study of African-Amer­i­can folk­lore, Mules and Men. Pub­lished in the influ­en­tial lit­er­ary mag­a­zine Sto­ry—which also served as an impor­tant venue for writ­ers like J.D. Salinger and Richard Wright—“The Gild­ed Six-Bits” so impressed the magazine’s edi­tor that he asked Hurston if she had a nov­el in progress. She didn’t, but told him she did, and imme­di­ate­ly began work on Jonah’s Gourd Vine, pub­lished the fol­low­ing year. A sto­ry of infi­deli­ty and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, “The Gild­ed Six-Bits” fea­tures char­ac­ters and a set­ting famil­iar to Hurston readers—ordinary African-Amer­i­cans caught up in the tra­vails of rur­al life in the Jim Crow South. But as in all of her work, the seem­ing sim­plic­i­ty of her char­ac­ters and lan­guage slow­ly reveal com­pli­cat­ed truths about the nature of lan­guage, mar­riage, sex­u­al­i­ty, and mon­ey. And few could bring her char­ac­ters to life bet­ter than your favorite Wire actors.

Find more films in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

via Bib­liok­lept

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Zora Neale Hurston Sing the Bawdy Prison Blues Song “Uncle Bud” (1940)

Hear Zora Neale Hurston Sing Tra­di­tion­al Amer­i­can Folk Song “Mule on the Mount” (1939)

An Art­ful, Ani­mat­ed Trib­ute to The Wire, Cre­at­ed by a Fan of the Crit­i­cal­ly-Acclaimed TV Series

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Software Used by Hayao Miyazaki’s Animation Studio Becomes Open Source & Free to Download

miyazaki gif2

By now we all know the name of Stu­dio Ghi­b­li, the oper­a­tion respon­si­ble for such ani­mat­ed-fea­ture-film-redefin­ing pro­duc­tions as Grave of the Fire­flies and Hayao Miyaza­k­i’s My Neigh­bor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spir­it­ed Away. But unless we’ve paid a vis­it to the Ghi­b­li Muse­um, seen the doc­u­men­tary The King­dom of Dreams and Mad­ness, or tak­en part in the close scruti­ny to which Ghi­b­li fans sub­ject the stu­dio’s every pub­lic move, we won’t know much about their meth­ods for craft­ing such visu­al­ly and emo­tion­al­ly cap­ti­vat­ing sto­ries. Soon, though, we’ll be able to use their tools our­selves. On March 26, you will be able to down­load Open­Toonz, an open source ver­sion of the Toonz soft­ware used by Stu­dio Ghi­b­li.

“Includ­ed in the Open­Toonz are many of Ghi­b­li’s cus­tom tools, spe­cial­ly designed to cap­ture trees wav­ing in the breeze, food that looks too deli­cious to eat, and the con­stant run­ning Miyaza­k­i’s films are known for,” writes The Cre­ators Pro­jec­t’s Beck­ett , who quotes Ghi­b­li’s Exec­u­tive Imag­ing Direc­tor Atsushi Okui on why they start­ed using the Ital­ian-devel­oped pack­age in the first place: “We need­ed a soft­ware enabling us to cre­ate a cer­tain sec­tion of the ani­ma­tion dig­i­tal­ly. Our require­ment was that in order to con­tin­ue pro­duc­ing the­atre-qual­i­ty ani­ma­tion with­out addi­tion­al stress, the soft­ware must have the abil­i­ty to com­bine the hand-drawn ani­ma­tion with the dig­i­tal­ly paint­ed ones seam­less­ly.” Toonz, evi­dent­ly, could pull it off.

Ghi­b­li began using the soft­ware in 1995, dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of Princess Mononoke, and has kept using it since. In fact, reports Amid Ami­di at Car­toon Brew, “the new Open­Toonz is dubbed ‘Toonz Ghi­b­li Edi­tion’ because of all the cus­tom-fea­tures that Toonz has devel­oped over the years for the leg­endary Japan­ese stu­dio.” With Miyaza­ki retired, at least from fea­ture-film ani­ma­tion, and nobody quite sure whether 2014’s When Marnie Was There will be the stu­dio’s last pic­ture, as good a time as any has come for suc­ces­sors to the Ghi­b­li tra­di­tion. If you’d like to throw your own hat into that enor­mous ring, you can down­load Open­Toonz for free on March 26, 2016 (or, for a price, buy Toonz Pre­mi­um) from the offi­cial Toonz web site.

via The Cre­ators’ Project

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Hayao Miyaza­ki Ani­mate the Final Shot of His Final Fea­ture Film, The Wind Ris­es

French Stu­dent Sets Inter­net on Fire with Ani­ma­tion Inspired by Moe­bius, Syd Mead & Hayao Miyaza­ki

Hayao Miyazaki’s Uni­verse Recre­at­ed in a Won­der­ful CGI Trib­ute

Hayao Miyazaki’s Mas­ter­pieces Spir­it­ed Away and Princess Mononoke Imag­ined as 8‑Bit Video Games

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Watch Édith Piaf Sing Her Most Famous Songs: “La Vie en Rose,” “Non, Je Regrette Rien” & More

On the 100th anniver­sary of Édith Piaf’s birth last Decem­ber, writes Jere­my Allen at The Guardian, “cel­e­bra­tions… were low key…. Piaf is a lit­tle out of fash­ion with today’s jeunesse dorée.” That’s a lit­tle hard to believe, but if Piaf has fall­en out of favor with wealthy French youth, her star has con­tin­ued to shine, year after year, for much of the music- and film-lov­ing world.

Her sto­ry has been told in numer­ous doc­u­men­taries and biopics, includ­ing the mul­ti­ple-award-win­ning La Vie en rose in 2007, whose lead actress, Mar­i­on Cotil­lard, received the first Oscar giv­en for a French-speak­ing role.

Cel­e­brat­ed in song, in print, in pho­tographs, and in many a stage tribute—such as Lady Gaga’s per­for­mance of her sig­na­ture song, “La Vie en rose,” at last year’s Gram­my awards—Piaf has “influ­enced every­one from Mar­i­anne Faith­full to Anna Calvi, and Elton John,” not all of whom are them­selves in fash­ion these days.

And yet, writes Allen, “to para­phrase an old foot­balling cliché, fash­ion is tem­po­rary, class is per­ma­nent.” If there’s any­thing Piaf’s voice and pres­ence have exem­pli­fied over many decades, it is that inde­fin­able qual­i­ty of “class,” which tran­scends eco­nom­ic divi­sions and the ram­blings of tacky would-be politi­cians and encom­pass­es rather a mix of grace­ful self-pos­ses­sion, artis­tic integri­ty, and time­less ele­gance.

She cer­tain­ly would not have been mis­tak­en, in her youth, for one of those fash­ion­able jeunesse dorée. The daugh­ter of a street singer who aban­doned her, Piaf learned her craft by also singing on the streets, “in a Bellevil­loise argot appar­ent­ly not dis­sim­i­lar to a Parisian ver­sion of old cock­ney,” Allen writes. The dra­mat­ic cir­cum­stances of her life were “a punk opera decades before the genre explod­ed….. From grow­ing up in a bor­del­lo, to spend­ing four years blind­ed by ker­ati­tis in her infan­cy, to join­ing her acro­bat father on the road in her teens, to shoot­ing up mor­phine, cor­ti­sone and falling into alco­holism to alle­vi­ate a dodgy back sus­tained in a car crash as an adult (pre­cip­i­tat­ing what she described as her ‘years of hell’).”

Through it all, writes Open Cul­ture’s Mike Springer, “Piaf man­aged to hold onto a basi­cal­ly opti­mistic view of life.” Such a view, always tinged with rue­ful sad­ness, comes through in her per­for­mances of, for exam­ple, “La Vie en rose” (which rough­ly trans­lates to “life through rose-col­ored glass­es”). See her per­form the song at the top of the post on French TV in 1954. “She was 38 years old,” writes Springer, “but looked much old­er” due to her alco­holism and var­i­ous treat­ments for her drink­ing and arthri­tis. Below this video, in a filmed per­for­mance of “Non, je regrette rien” (“I regret noth­ing”), Piaf’s hard life seems etched on her expres­sive­ly sor­row­ful face, but her voice did not suf­fer for it, nor her will­ing­ness to per­form until the end of her short life (she died in 1963 at age 47).

Piaf ded­i­cat­ed “Non, je regrette rien”—composed for her in 1956 by Charles Dumont and Michel Vaucaire—to the French For­eign Legion, who adopt­ed it as their anthem. Its title becomes par­tic­u­lar­ly poignant in light of Piaf’s sto­ried life, espe­cial­ly giv­en the accu­sa­tions after the Nazi occu­pa­tion that she had col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Ger­mans. Instead, it was revealed, writes a New York Times pro­file, that while she per­formed for Ger­man troops, she “was instru­men­tal in help­ing a num­ber of pris­on­ers escape,” ren­der­ing “aid that lat­er saved her from any charges of col­lab­o­ra­tion.” Piaf became an emblem of Parisian cul­ture, and appeared in sev­er­al films, such as 1951’s Paris Chante Tou­jours (“Paris still sings,” above—she sings “Hymne à l’amour.”)

She also became—after sur­viv­ing a first, dis­as­trous 1947 appear­ance in New York—a star in the U.S. in the 50s. In 1959, she appeared on The Ed Sul­li­van Show and sang “Milord” (above), part­ly in Eng­lish, a song that briefly reached the Bill­board top 100. Piaf would appear a few times on Sul­li­van’s pro­gram through­out the decade. In 1952, she held her own with Amer­i­can audi­ences in a line­up that includ­ed the huge­ly pop­u­lar Bob­by Darin and the fiery Ike and Tina Turn­er. Despite her diminu­tive stature (she stood just 4′8″) and often frail phys­i­cal con­di­tion, Piaf’s world-weary demeanor and smol­der­ing voice stood out in any com­pa­ny. She was a true orig­i­nal and there has nev­er been anoth­er per­former quite like her.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Édith Piaf’s Mov­ing Per­for­mance of ‘La Vie en Rose’ on French TV, 1954

Watch Clas­sic Per­for­mances from Maria Callas’ Won­drous and Trag­i­cal­ly-Short Opera Career

Bertolt Brecht Sings ‘Mack the Knife’ From The Three­pen­ny Opera, 1929

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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