Sunday, April 03, 2005

Joel Chandler Harris; Pope; flea market finds

I made a mistake: it's Joel Chandler Harris, not Joel Harris Chandler who wrote the stories on which the Disney movie "Song of the South" was based on. The stories have been translated into Finnish, but the books go usually under the name of Anni Swan, who was the translator (and maybe a heavy-handed modifier, too) and one of the most famous Finnish children's authors. Harris is mentioned somewhere at the bottom of the page in tiny fonts.

Here's something I dug out about Harris who seemed to be some kind of America's answer to brothers Grimm:

Well in advance of the twentieth-century development of folklore studies and cultural anthropology as academic disciplines, Joel Chandler Harris gathered the dialect tales he had heard in his childhood told by slaves. He placed them within a narrati ve context that made them available to a large white audience, sharpening the effects of their regional details and the age-old wisdom by which the enslaved secretly outwit their masters.

Through his work with the Uncle Remus tales, he would introduce Ame ricans to the basic patterns and rhythms of southern African-American speech. Because of Harris' accomplishments, American mainstrean literature featured a memorable new character, Uncle Remus, as well as a new literary tradition.

The way had been hard for Harris as a child in Georgia. His day-laborer father deserted his mother just before his birth. Helped by the local people of Putnam County, the mother and the child made do until young Harris went to work for a newspaper at fourteen. Harris soon contributed humorous pieces to several Georgia papers, and he quickly gained a reputation in the newspaper world. In 1876 he joined the Atlanta Constitution in the city that became his permanent home. During this perio d Harris divided his time between editorial writing (urging southerners to "reconstruct" their habits and to rise above the conflicts of their past) and the dialect tales, which began to appear in print under the guise of Uncle Remus, the old slave.

His first collection of folk poems and proverbs was published in 1881 as Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings. Further collections included Nights with Uncle Remus (1883), Uncle Remus and His Friends (1892), and Uncle Remus and the Little Boy (1905). As the titles suggest, relationships are important; they develop between the wide-eyed audience (likened to a little white boy from the main plantation household) and the narrator who acts as "best friend"-whiling away the hours w ith a seemingly endless supply of tales. The lasting impression of the Remus stories on readers of all ages and from many countries (there were translations into twenty-seven languages) stems from the force of their slave lore.

Harris insisted that his sources were genuine and that his documentation of the plot and dialect was accurate. In this way, Uncle Remus goes back in time to African models, as well as to the animal tales of Aesop and Chaucer. Harris helped inspir e other writers in the vernacular through his adroit use of narrative forms, his excellent ear for the subtleties of dialect, and his ability to emphasize the universal nature of these classic standoffs between the weak and the powerful.

***

The pope is dead. I think he should've died sooner - he seemed so sick and fragile. I just don't get why it is so big news. He was old and bound to die. And the church should've let him rest.

Someone should extinguish the Catholic Church. The papal institution is weird: one guy, who's willing to let unwanted babies born by the thousands or even millions, can decide what's good for millions of people! And as Elina pointed out, the pope is elected by the authorities of the church, yet he's claimed to be the spokesman of God on Earth. Why doesn't God tell us who's the next pope? That way we all could be sure He really exists.

I've always wondered why God isn't more open about Himself and His ways. Why is He lurking? It's self-deception to just say: He moves in mysterious ways. That way he ensures people don't take Him seriously. Some good old burning bushes and stuff - that's all He needs.

***

Good day at the flea market today. We went for a walk (Spring has finally arrived!) and checked in at the near-by self-service flea market. We made quite a many finds - I even found two Finnish sex paperbacks from the late seventies that I was missing! I also bought an old Finnish adventure novel by "Brent Morea", really Olavi Linnus who also wrote as Gil Dennic and Rex Davis and some other pseudonyms. The Amazon novel called "Viidakkoväylän jäljillä/Route through the Jungle" (Paletti 1948) starts off quite snappily:

"Then I started to think that Dick Spider wasn't worth a mention anymore. You see, those who meet my fists are not very charming afterwards."

I also bought an Israeli paperback by Andrew Sugar, a sex/crime paperback by "Brad Latham", who I've been told is really the famous horror writer David J. Schow, Norwegian or Danish western paperback by one Ed Edson, an old Finnish romance paperback by Maja Kai and a historical adventure novel by Stanley Weyman, who is nowadays almost forgotten writer from the age of great storytellers (= late 19th century and early 20th century). I've developed an interest towards old adventure fiction lately, but more about that later.

3 comments:

Tero said...

"I've always wondered why God isn't more open about Himself and His ways. Why is He lurking?"

You just don't know where to look. :)

Yesterday, just 15 minutes after you posted this in fact, MTV3 showed an episode of Futurama where God (or, as it were, a galactic computer acting as one anyway) appears and answers your question. If he were too obvious, he'd never get the end of prayers asking for this or that. So, to quote him, "when you do things right, no-one can be sure if you actually did anything".

How's that for a divine intervention and being more open? :)

Juri said...

Now that's a good explanation! Thanks! Maybe I'll have think more about my religious inclinations.

Tero said...

Yes, worshipping Futurama is always a good option.