Wednesday, January 09, 2008

News From England: New Fairy Tales

The UK produces a number of great newspapers. In recent years, the larger national newspapers have produced their respective big versions on Saturday rather than Sunday. This allows readers to meander over the paper through the entire weekend. All continue to publish on Sunday but it is the Saturday version that is my preference. Leaving London on Saturday after spending two weeks with the family, Mrs PND and I loaded up on three of the big dailies.

There is a lot of publishing industry and book related news in these newspapers. This weekend The Times reported on the ranking of the top 50 best post war British writers. Philip Larkin was ranked at the top of the list for those who care. Personnally, I only have a casual interest in lists like these. I think the composition of these lists is subject to whim and justification is hard to fathom. Here is how they put it: "Because there is no scientific method for making such a list in the correct order, we applied no scientific method. But we considered a number of factors — sheer quality of writing, longevity, lasting impact and, naturally, commercial success." The Times asked a number of current authors to write some of the profiles which is an interesting twist.

Other interesting news in The Times was the news that the BBC is developing several bo0k derived projects. Unknown in the US, Arthur Ransom wrote a series of adventure titles for boys and girls refered to as Swallows and Amazons. I found these titles when I was eight or nine and loved them. The BBC is close to gaining options on all 12 titles. From the article:

Inspired by the success of The Dangerous Book for Boys, the BBC is betting that camping, fishing and messing about in dinghies will seem as thrillingly exotic to modern children as any special-effects-laden superhero movie. The producers believe that the resourceful young heroes of Swallows and Amazons and the book’s idyllic Lake District setting possess an allure that they did not have when the tale was last filmed in 1974, before childhood hobbies became as sedentary, solitary and technology-driven as they are today.
Unknown to me until I read this article was that Ransom married Trotsky's secretary and spied for the Bolsheviks. Who knew?

The BBC is also broadcasting new versions of old fairytales. This effort is similar to their ShakespeaRe-Told series which ran on BBC American early last year. The BBC will broadcast Rapunzel on Thursday in the UK and I suspect it will be here soon. From The Times tv guide:

After the success of their updated Chaucer and Shakespeare dramas, the BBC have set their cross hairs on the fairy tails of the Brothers Grimm, Han Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault. Fairy tales work on subconscious levels, quite unlike normal stories and plays. Their plots are weird and the characters are symbolic rather than human. For Rapunzel, the writer Ed Roe has concocted a farcical little fantasy about a useless Eastern European tennis player who pretends to be a woman in the hope of beating Rapunzel the long haired woman's champion.
All told an interesting weekend in the British press for publishing. Rent the Shakespeare titles if you can find them.

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