History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

24 January 2014

Favorite Books and Echoes from the Past: What Moves You?

When I checked the New York Times this morning, I discovered that one of my favorite haunts, the Morgan Library, visited numerous times during my childhood and beyond -- to imagine that Mr. Morgan's library was my own and to ogle one of the Gutenberg Bibles, and to geek out over exhibits focusing on the Greatest Literature Ever -- inagurates a new exhibit today to celebrate the connection between New York City and my favorite book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's THE LITTLE PRINCE.

I was often a sickly child and pored over my French and English editions side by side, teaching myself French words from the English. I identified with the Prince's rose. When I was in First Form (seventh grade to public schoolers) I adapted a scene from the novel for performance as a homeroom assignments,

In my late teens, the drama counselor at the performing arts camp I'd attended myself as a younger kid, I adapted the entire novel for the stage, and directed a cast of 7-12 year olds in the show, which was performed for their families and the rest of the camp at the end of the summer.

A sentence from the novel, said by the Fox to the Little Prince, remains my favorite literary quote: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Evidently, the Morgan curator (or at least the person who wrote the catalog or web material feels the same way as I do about that single sentence).  From the exhibition description:

Since its publication seventy years ago, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince has captivated millions of readers throughout the world. It may come as a surprise that this French tale of an interstellar traveler who comes to Earth in search of friendship and understanding was written and first published in New York City, during the two years the author spent here at the height of the Second World War. 

As he prepared to leave the city to rejoin the war effort as a reconnaissance pilot, Saint-Exupéry appeared at his friend Silvia Hamilton's door wearing his military uniform. "I'd like to give you something splendid," he said, "but this is all I have." He tossed a rumpled paper bag onto her entryway table. Inside were the manuscript and drawings for The Little Prince, which the Morgan acquired from her in 1968. 

Focusing on the story's American origins, this exhibition features twenty-five of the manuscript pages—replete with crossed-out words, cigarette burns, and coffee stains—and all forty-three of the earliest versions of drawings for the book. Also on view are rare printed editions from the Morgan's collection as well as personal letters, photographs, and artifacts on loan from the Saint-Exupéry estate, private collections, and museums and libraries in France and the United States. 

The Little Prince: A New York Story is the first exhibition to explore in depth the creative decisions Saint-Exupéry made as he crafted his beloved story that reminds us that what matters most can only be seen with the heart.

Do you have a favorite book that has stayed with you and/or inspired your own work in some way?a new exhibit


Blogger Helena said...

I've never read this book, so I've just ordered a copy. I adored The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and I'm sure it's the reason why I still feel excited by old walled gardens, and spring bulbs!

3:44 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

I always loved The Secret Garden, too, Helena. Did you ever see the Broadway musical adaptation, with music by Lucy Simon? Really a beautiful adaptation, with music that is redolent of the period, instead of contemporary pop-sounding crap.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Helena said...

No, I wasn't even aware of that adaptation. I've seen a couple of screen versions, but haven't really liked them.

3:37 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

LOVE The Little Prince. What an amazing exhibit. Wish I could see it. And The Secret Garden is another of my favorites. Black Beauty is the book that got me interested in animal causes. I read it when I was 8 years old and it is still one of my favorites. I feel the same way about To Kill a Mockingbird.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Louisa, I remember crying hysterically over an illustrated copy of Black Beauty. [spoiler alert] The scene with the stable fire? My God! Every time I re-read the book I was an emotional mess. I had a lotof childhood favorites that stuck with me, many of which were books that had belonged to my mother: classics like Little Women and Alice in Wonderland, and the Oz books, but also -- did you know there was a gorgeously illustrated series of books about Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy by Johnny Gruelle?

12:09 PM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I actually have one of those Johnny Gruelle Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy books. I rediscovered it in a box of books my mother kept from my childhood. I will confess I sat right down and read it from cover to cover!

12:47 PM  

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