Hans Christian Andersen’s painful fairy-tale life 

By Dinah Birch

Hans Christian Andersen has introduced generations of children to the pleasures of an unhappy ending. The loyalty of the steadfast tin soldier doesn’t save him from the fire; the little mermaid will never be married to the prince; Karen’s taste for fancy footwear in “The Red Shoes” is her undoing. Few literary moments can have generated more infant tears than the death of the little match girl. Children now rarely come across the unrelieved darkness of Andersen’s imagination. Disney, who finally staged a wedding for the little mermaid in a 1989 film, have recently produced Frozen, a hugely popular adaptation of “The Snow Queen”. Its calculated brightness is a long way from Andersen’s story of Gerda’s arduous redemption of Kay. Andersen’s religiosity has also been edited out of the picture. Firmly convinced of the immortality of the soul, he swept many of his oppressed characters into heaven in the final paragraphs of his tales. Modern sensibilities prefer more earthly forms of salvation.

It may not be necessary to shelter younger readers from Andersen’s intensely personal vision. They often relish his febrile emotionalism, and find his championship of the misunderstood outsider appealing. Many lonely children have been comforted by “The Ugly Duckling”, where patient endurance is, exceptionally, rewarded by happiness. As far as Andersen was concerned, it hardly mattered whether his work was good for the young or not, for after the publication of his earliest tales he did not see himself as writing primarily for children. Paul Binding shares Andersen’s view. His study offers detailed commentaries on his subject’s novels, travel writings and autobiographies alongside the more familiar stories, in a sustained attempt to reclaim Andersen’s work for grown-ups. Binding argues that Andersen is best understood in the context of European Romanticism, and the political turmoil that followed the Napoleonic wars. Despite his isolation and oddity, Andersen was, as Binding sees him, a figure of major intellectual substance.

Binding’s book, like much of Andersen’s work, is not easy to categorise. This is an unconventional piece of Life-writing. Much is omitted, including any description of Andersen’s final years. Readers who indulge in the habit of beginning a biography with the deathbed, and working backwards, will be nonplussed. The sympathetic accounts of Jens Andersen (translated into English in 2005) or Jackie Wullschlager (2000) remain the best options for those looking for a more straightforward approach. For Binding, the point of the biographical material is to demonstrate the intimate connection between Andersen’s writing and his remarkable life. He describes the circumstances that led to Andersen’s unlikely transformation from the clumsy son of an alcoholic washerwoman into one of the most widely celebrated authors of Europe, but this narrative takes second place to his analyses of Andersen’s texts, and their representations of the distress that accompanies processes of magical change. Andersen called one of his autobiographies My Fairy-Tale Life, but it was as painful a fairy tale as any that he invented. An early story, “The Tallow-Candle” (discovered in 2012), suggests what was to come. Like much of Andersen’s mature work, it endows an inanimate object with a human consciousness. The candle knows that its great purpose is to give light, which will only be possible when flame has passed through its body. But it is stained by the handling of dirty fingers, and thrown aside as useless. A redemptive tinder-box eventually provides the necessary spark, and the candle’s hidden virtue at last shines as it should.


(via myimaginarybrooklyn:)


Literary birthday - beloved children’s book author Ruth Krauss  (July 25, 1901–July 10, 1993)

Celebrate with Open House for Butterflies, her final and loveliest collaboration with Maurice Sendak.

(via explore-blog:)


This Sunday, join us at the LCBA studio to learn how to prepare artwork and to print your own foilblock printed cards, invitations and book covers.

Introduction to Foilblocking
Sunday 27 July, 1 – 3pm


There was a guy on TV news this morning talking about social media, its effect on public life, and how employers especially are now quick to do background checks on you in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter when looking at your resume.
“Unfortunately we all,” he said, “have to think of ourselves as…

“Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places.

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

From her 2008 Harvard Commencement Address, entitled “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination.”


The view down Denman St from @TwitterUK (at Piccadilly Theatre)


Version 0.1 of “Please Look After This Englishman is now available on Amazon or (more cheaply!) Gumroad

PLATE is the before , during and after story of my 2011 trip through my USA social network.

It’s the basic early release: a…

L’Opera - ahhh we’ll always have Paris….

Opera de Paris Garnier the Opera venue featured in Phantom of the Opera

Objects of Curiosity…is that a Moosehead?


“Actually,” said Harry, pocketing his e-cigarette, “Peter’s pursuit of rational self-interest is of a higher moral order than your determination to kill yourself on another person’s behalf, Sirius. Self-sacrifice is never the answer; it ends only in pain and death.”

Sirius blanched. “But Voldemort — we could have stopped Voldemort.”

“It’s a free market,” Harry said, shrugging.

Lupin turned into a wolf.

“Control yourself,” Harry said. “Good lord, man, you’re a being of pure will and drive. Exercise it.”

Lupin turned back into a man with flashing, clear eyes and a jaw that could level a mid-sized office building.

“In the marketplace of ideas,” Harry went on, “Voldemort has the same right to disseminate his philosophy as you do. If his philosophy is sound, it will flourish. If his philosophy is unsound, you have nothing to fear.”

Wish I was there Wish I was there Wish I was there