Dystopian literature is all the rage and particularly popular with young people. Like utopian, these books look forward, project into the future. Because I have always found comfort in looking back, reading about older societies, I needed more information—wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
The owner of Strangemore.com states: Dystopia presents a story told out of despair…makes use of “big government”… using tactics of intimidation and sometimes mind control; … Dystopia presents societies based on segregation, inequality, and oppression.
For utopian literature, he says: usually has a …communal society, where decisions are made based on the “greater good.” …societies are generally based on the so-called equality of all humankind. And he says utopian books come from the perspective of hope. That sounded better to me, though the point was made that the equality of societies can be an illusion. Another downer.
And this literature is filling bookshelves and tablets and making film directors salivate—think: Hunger Games, Divergence, Ender’s Game.
In the past I read some of this utopian/dystopian genre—not sure how I would categorize: Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm and The Handmaid’s Tale. Was there more hope than despair??
One thing I do know, the continued popularity of novels like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Jane Eyre, plus the phenomenal success of Downton Abbey, indicates that not everyone wants messages of despair. Hope and happy endings are still popular experiences—and looking back to an older society that possesses elements far removed from ours might give one better dreams. I confess I just don’t like civilizations are destroyed and the earth is burned to a crisp stuff.
YouTube: Downton Abbey http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJ6iU7p8uJ0
YouTube: P&P http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SrjcsgAeu4
Feeling more hopeful? Video, film, and book illustrations leave lasting images in our minds. I don’t understand the pull to exploding cities and violence. Some would argue it’s escape. Okay—but I’m still down after viewing. I’d rather dwell in a positive zone. I guess my bottom line: some viewers and readers are just better able to compartmentalize this stuff. I carry it around with me.
Two illustrators that always bring the comfort of looking back are Eloise Wilkin and Garth Williams. Both illustrated favorite books of my childhood. And though Wilkin’s work was only found in children’s Golden Books, not leather-bound tomes, she’s got a big fan club—check out Pinterest where people are filling boards with her illustrations. Why? We want to go back, capture precious and idyllic moments from our childhoods. Example: Ten years ago, I was wandering a bookstore when my eyes fell on the cover of a featured book. A tingling, déjà vu feeling hit me—here it was, the book my mind had glimpses of but could not fully remember–Jane Werner Watson’s GOOD NIGHT, illustrated by Wilkin, a Golden Book, copyright, 1949. It’s a simple story, but it brought back great memories.
Readers, do you remember her work? Victorian interiors, plump children, and many patterns of flowers, checkers, plaids and stripes. The gracious homes she drew with lush gardens and swings modeled houses in Rochester, New York—her lifelong home.
And it’s almost certain, that growing up you read a book illustrated by the American artist Garth Williams, 1912-1996. His work includes: Stewart Little, Charlotte’s Web, The Little House on the Prairie and all subsequent books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. He also illustrated many Golden Books.
I love fiction and read a variety of titles, periodically suggested on this blog. But a ledge in my guest bedroom is reserved for my Wilkin books and many Garth Williams titles—it’s my way of wishing hope and comfort for my guests before they turn out the light. I wish you all the same.
PS If you want to go back in time for even more comfort, Diane E. Muldrow, long-time editor of Golden Books, has published: Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book See it here.