My office library is organized by subject matter. Non fiction—biography and memoir—load most of the shelves. Fiction is in the bedroom—hardcover—and art books in the den. The children’s books are still in one of the rooms once occupied by my youngest son.
But on the two shelves above my desk are the books which are the most personal. The series of French film books and DVDs of the New Wave, the books by friends which have been inscribed to me by their authors, and a short selection of novels and non fiction which reference my current work.
On the very top shelf, in the middle, now encased in a plastic baggie as it’s so fragile is the paperback version of Pippi Longstocking which I ordered as part of the Scholastic book club in elementary school. The binding is shot, the pages are brittle and many are loose and have disengaged from their mooring.
I know I am far from the only girl, or person, who nourishes such fond affection for a novel which found in me the brave girl I wanted to be, who didn’t give a fig for what anyone else thought, who could climb trees and wash the floor as if she were skating, had a horse in her backyard and was so strong she could lift him, who made excellent pancakes, who could sleep whenever and however she liked, join the circus, and had a pet monkey and was so nice to the more conventional children next door.
Author Astrid Lindgren found her way to millions of childrens’ hearts all over the world because, as one says in a letter she receives when she is very old in a new film biography from Sweden, “ You understand us Astrid, you are on our side”.
Becoming Astrid directed by Pernille Fischer Christensen tells the fairly conventional story of an unconventional girl: a rebellious farmgirl with talent who leaves her family behind as her talent is recognized, and along the way has a affair which changes the course of her life, but only serves to deepen her ability to understand how a child feels.
And it shows in a very simple way how it’s impossible to entirely separate the writer from the document no matter how much they (we) protest.
Like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lindgren took the basics of her own life and put them into her stories; she wrote many more books but Pippi is the one best known to English speaking audiences.
I don’t really want to spoil the film for anyone. Alas I believe one sex scene would make it difficult for anyone younger than middle school or high school to see it, it’s really a film for older teenagers and adults.
I took an informal survey of friends. Everyone identified with Pippi. Like Eloise and Madeline she is smart but feisty, all three of them girls who prevail in the end just by being themselves.
The film is perfect holiday treat about loss and forgiveness, following your passion, the clichés of growing up and out which are all too true. A new generation is discovering the marvels of Pippi every day.
It opens on November 23rd.