Still plenty of time to join us… sign up here.
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You can sign up for the club here.
Here’s my intro:
Tove Jansson, the writer and artist best known for creating the Moomins, spent her summers on an island in the gulf of Finland with her lifelong partner, Tuulikki Pietila. She wrote most of her books there, and she wrote The Summer Book, about a girl and her grandmother living on an island, at the age of sixty, after losing her mother. I love this book because it’s what I wish all my summers would feel like, deep and just a little dark and surrounded by the sea…
The timing couldn’t be better: a new festival is starting in the UK called The Woman Who Fell in Love with An Island. (Inspired by a letter she wrote to Tooti in 1963, asking her partner if she’d read the D.H. Lawrence story, “The Man Who Loved Islands”: “How about ‘The Woman Who Fell in Love with an Island’?”)
The Guardian recently published “How Tove Jansson’s love of nature shaped the world of the Moomins,” with more about their life on the island, including this passage about their “hut” and routine:
Like the lighthouse that the author hymned in Moominpappa at Sea, the hut’s one room had windows facing in all directions so that Tove and Pietilä could watch the horizon from 360 degrees, and see the winds and storms coming and going. Seated at separate desks (in Helsinki they lived in separate apartments joined by an attic corridor), they “got a lot into the day”. While Jansson wrote, Pietilä drew, or filmed with her 8mm camera. Occasionally they had a joint project, constructing scenes from the Moomin books, with Pietilä making the 3D models and Jansson painting them: “That was their play time.”
Back in April, I watched a (rare) documentary made up of footage Tooti shot on 8mm: Haru, Island of the Solitary.
Jansson wrote a piece called “The Island” that is, according to translator Hernan Diaz, “at once a short story, an essay, and a prose poem,” which “reads both like a sketch for The Summer Book (published eleven years later) and a vignette of Klovharu, the island where Jansson and Tuulikki Pietilä, her partner, built a summerhouse in the mid-60’s.”
It begins: “There is a surprisingly large number of people who go around dreaming about an island.”
I am one of them!
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) May 24, 2021
Every month I’ll chose a book from an eclectic mix of creative nonfiction, novels, artist memoirs, comics, and more, all of which speak to living a more creative life.
You can choose to get the books mailed to you in a handsome package each month, or pick a digital-only, buy your own book option. Either option gets you access to the Literati app, where our discussion will happen.
The fun begins on June 1st, but you can sign up now.
(Unfortunately, only people in the US can sign up right now. Literati tells me they’re working on international memberships. If you have any more questions, please contact Literati!)
My first pick for the club is How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell.
It was really hard picking the launch book! Like choosing a first song on a mixtape, or the first sentence for a book — you have to set the tone. I wanted a book written by a woman who’s a working artist. The club starts in June, so I wanted a book that was deep, but could also be read on the beach. I wanted a book that’s a little weird but still accessible and I wanted a book that speaks to my belief in the creative power of idleness. (A northern Winter is for hibernation, a southern summer is for estivation.)
When I watched Odell’s original talk in 2017, I knew it could be a good book, but the book took off in a big way. Readers were loving it and sharing it and it was selling well by word-of-mouth, but then Obama named it one of his favorite books of 2019, and eight months after publication it finally hit the NYTimes bestseller list. (For the record, it was on my 2019 list, too.)
A bit of trivia: How To Do Nothing came out in April 2019, the same time that my book Keep Going came out. Jenny and I crossed paths at the very beginnings of our book tours in a morning talk show green room in Portland. We took this selfie together:
Anyways, I like reading books a lot more than I like writing books, so a book club seemed like a great idea.
Books are my creative fuel, and reading is at the very heart of my practice as a writer and an artist. Not many people know this, but I used to work the reference desk in a public library. In many ways, I still feel like a librarian: a big part of the joy of my work is pointing my readers “upstream” to the books I love.
I hope the books I choose will be both useful and beautiful, but most importantly, I hope these books will be fun to read.
I firmly believe that reading should be fun.
(And, again, if you have any questions, please contact Literati!)
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