Thursday, September 27, 2012

Weekly Review

I seem to be in a state of revisiting my childhood. However, rather than watching the cartoons I grew up watching, I'm reading the books those cartoons are (sometimes loosely) based on.

So, after finishing Caleb Carr's very dark The Alienist (which review I'm still working on), I picked up Margery Sharp's The Rescuers.

If I were expecting a trip to the Louisiana bayou, I expected wrong.

Bernard the pantry mouse has been called to the Prisoners' Aid Society to entrust Miss Bianca of the porcelain pagoda the mission of finding the bravest mouse in all of Norway. See, she is moving there: traveling by bag with her boy to the Embassy in Oslo.

Once, there she meets Nils, a brave Norwegian mouse whom she must send back to the Moot-house and the Society to be instructed on a dangerous expedition: to free a poet from the belly of the Black Castle. However, Miss Bianca realizes that she longs to see her Bernard of the Pantry, being poor be damned, and instead of returning to her boy, she travels back to the Moot-house with Nils.

Once returned, all three agree to travel together to the Black Castle to free the poet.

In reading Margery Sharp's The Rescuers, I found myself comparing Miss Bianca of the book to Eva Gabor's Miss Bianca in the Disney cartoon. And at first I was leaning towards Disney, but by the end of the book, I found Sharp's Bianca a much more dynamic character, and though I read the character throughout with Miss Gabor's accent, I found I greatly preferred the characters of the book moreso than the cartoon. Both Miss Bianca and Bernard were quite a bit more developed in the book rather than in the cartoon, which seemed to take the end result of the book and start the cartoon with those characteristics as a given.

My favorite part of the story occurred rather early on when Miss Bianca is trying to draw a map for the sea-going Nils.

For the first time, Nils looked uneasy.

"Could you let me have a chart, ma'am? On shore I'm a bit apt to loose my bearings."

"Certainly," said Miss Biana. "If you will give me the materials, I'll do it now."

After a little searching, Nils produced from one of his boots a paper bag and a stump of red chalk. (He found several other things first, such as half a pair of socks, a box of Elastoplast, a double six of dominoes, a ball of twine and a folding corkscrew.) Miss Bianca sat down at a table and smoothed the bag flat.

At the end of ten minutes, all she had produced was a sort of very complicated spider web.

The Moot-house was in the middle - that was quite clear; but the rest was just a muddle of criss-cross lines. Miss Bianca felt so ashamed, she rapidly sketched a lady's hat - just to show she really could draw - and began again.

"Hadn't you best start with the points of the compass, ma'am?" suggested Nils.

Miss Bianca, alas, had never even heard of compass points!

"You put them in," she said, turning the paper over. Nils took the chalk and marked top and bottom, then each side, with a N, and S, an E, and W. Then he gave the chalk back, and Miss Bianca again put a dot in the middle for the Moot-house - and again, out of sheer nervousness, drew a lady's hat round it. (The garden-party sort, with a wide brim and a wreath of roses.) Nils studied it respectfully.

"That I'd call clear as daylight," he said. "You should ha' set your compass first." He laid a finger on one of the roses. "Them, I take it, would be duckponds?"

"Oh, dear!" thought Miss Bianca. She knew perfectly well where the Moot-house stood - Bernard had explained everything so clearly - but she just couldn't, it seemed, put her knowledge on paper. And here was good brave Nils preparing to set forth with no more guide than a garden-party hat! (31-32)

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