Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Hello again, hello - Karen Bush


What happens when you take a brilliant book ...

No, not the Neil Diamond song of the same name - although it is a favourite of mine - but rather a reference to having been doing some re-reading recently and enjoying getting reacquainted with some old friends. One of them was Noel Langley's The Land of Green Ginger: it's one of those marvellous books that you never really grow out of. And what's not to love about a book which kicks off with "... I bring you a Tale of Heroes and Villains, just as in Life; Birds and Beasts, just as in Zoos; Mysteries and Magic, just as in Daydreams; and the Wonderful Wanderings of an Enchanted Land which was never in the same place twice.  As long ago as Long Ago, and as Long Ago Again as That ..." It is the book which at a tender and impressionable age introduced me to such fabulous names as Prince Tintac Ping Foo, Rubdub Ben Thud, Sulkpot Ben Nagnag and Boomalakka Wee, not to mention the idea that you could incorporate real people (Omar Khayyam) into a fictional tale or create a 'what happened next' instalment to a traditional folk story (in this case Aladdin): it wasn't afraid to use big (but interesting) words and it was the first time I came into contact with such writerly devices as a mini-teaser to introduce each chapter, the Use of Capital Letters within a Sentence as well as at the Beginning of It, not to mention teaching assonance, alliteration, irony and sarcasm - not that I was aware of it at the time. This is pre-Pratchett, but every bit as clever, quirky, original and witty; and despite being first published in 1937 it really is just as fresh as ever. 
... and get busy with cuts and the old red pen
without first consulting a fully qualified whippet?
I have read this book so many times that it is literally falling apart at the seams, but  happily it is now available as an ebook. Langley revised the book himself for a 1966 reprint, but a 1970's version was horribly hacked and mutilated: it's good to see that for the digital edition the text has been restored to that of '66 (complete with the lovely Edward Ardizzone illustrations) with the exception of Those Capital Letters within Sentences which is a Shame.  On the whole though, it is wonderful to see some old classics such as this one being given a new lease of life and reaching a whole new audience. Better still, they are usually at a far more affordable price than the sometimes hard-to-obtain secondhand paper editions: I'm pleased to see that a couple of other favourites, Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard and Martin Pippin in the Daisy Field are now available too - I paid a lot of money to replace one copy a few years ago, but baulked at the price being asked for the other volume; now I can finally afford to revisit it. I'm also still smarting from having to pay a small fortune for a battered copy of Carol Kendall's The Firelings, an OOP book which truly does deserve a second bite at the cherry ... any publishers out there listening? (and if you are, could you please ebook Kendall's The Minnipins and The Whisper of Glocken at the same time, as my copies of those are in nearly as bad a state as poor old LoGG ...)



5 comments:

Lydia Bennet said...

Ooh! thank you so much for this post, for reminding me about Land of Green Ginger and how much I loved it! Mine looked exactly like yours! It's so playful with language and so funny. Some of it has entered my personal lexicon - when releasing a spider or rescuing a bird or mouse or some such I find myself saying 'it may have Friends who will become Anxious' and I still call sulky passive aggressive people 'SulkPot ben Nagnag'. I shall indeed buy the ebook and thank heavens for ebooks which bring back these gems. I had no idea it had been written so long ago but then it's all Arabian Nights-ish so you can't really tell. It really is laugh out loud funny.

madwippitt said...

Glad you enjoyed it as much as me Lydia - it really ought to be on a top 10 list of somethings ... Did you know that the author also wrote the screenplay of The Wizard of Oz?

Sandra Horn said...

It sounds enchanting! How did I miss it first time round? Off to download now. Thank you!

Lydia Bennet said...

no I didn't know about Oz! the comedy in the book despite the archaic setting is very modern.

Enid Richemont said...

LOVED The Land of Green Ginger when I read it to my kids. A glorious fantasy.