Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Borrowed Bookshelves: 3

Emily Brett, Writer and Visual Artist, Hackney, London.

I found these much-loved Ladybird books lurking amongst Brett’s eclectic collection of literary and theological texts. Brett says, in testimony to the Ladybirds’ durability, “I loved the books’ feel: firm, droppable, difficult to rip the pages because the cover was so hard; and I loved the picture of the Ladybird in the top right corner.” She adds, “From the look of its legs I suspected that Ladybirds could crawl everywhere and everywhere they crawled there was a book about what they'd seen…”

The slim volumes are mostly educational; they alerted the young Brett to important concerns such as woodwork, pond life and pirates. Yet far and away her favourite was the story of Joan of Arc who saw visions of God in the sunlit fields. For a small girl who could still barely read, part of the appeal for Brett were the illustrations of the pious yet sassy saint-to-be and her surroundings. “The pictures of cows, bowls of soup, wooden tables, stone masonry, the church and battles, tell their own narrative, leading Joan from her village to her higher purpose. I remember particularly a picture of her holding up and dedicating her sword to a statue of the Virgin Mary. It seemed terribly noble and, in a way, glamorous. I realised there was much more to life than met the eye. I also loved the endpapers, with dark grey drawings and captions of important things, such as 'Crossbow-men', 'Joan in her armour', 'A Knight', etc.

“Joan’s story is so exciting. She's so brave and has such sensibility. On the cover there’s a picture of her riding a white horse in battle, in her glinting armour, cape flowing against the blue sky. It symbolised life as an adventure and a crusade... In summer there were lots of Ladybirds in the garden on a plant with tiny purple flowers and I liked counting their spots and calling them Joan.”


Brett said...

I thought this was a free country? Why can't I leave a comment on my own book shelf without it being 'approved' by some 'blog author'? Surely that means it'll get edited to sound really complimentary.

I'm throwing in the trowel. You'll hear the scrape of my tin can shoes (as close as I get to Joan's armour) as I limp along the road and stop below your window to wave a fist and shout some silent protest about freedom of speech being a thing of the past.

A silent protest indeed; for the next thing they will censor will be my blessed voice, I'm sure. Once as holy and revered as Jeanne d'arc. Now just an old tramp.

I was going to write something really holy and lit'ry but I'm not going to anymore. I think I'm just going to suck on an old turnip and wait and see if my comment appears as: Campbell, I think you are so wonderful and clever and beautiful. I think everyone should give you wads of notes before even looking at you and I think you should be given free tickets to travel wherever you want, forever, and be made into the poet laureate of Greenland. You get my vote!


Nancy Campbell said...

Darling Brett,

Thanks for being so supportive and understanding as always. Any time you need a fresh turnip, or some mouldy potato skins, you can knock on my door. And if they censor your voice we can learn sign language together. That will screw them.

This moderation lark is only to save you from your own typos, I promise. Everyone needs an editor (don't forget you're mine).

I don't think they have postal votes for the Greenland laureateship. You will have to sail your old tin cans over to the island and marry an Inuit shaman for citizenship rights. In fact, when you come, can you bring a fresh pair of hot water bottles? Mine are almost worn through with sliding down glaciers.