‘Fair Play’

I’ve just read Ali Smith’s introduction to the (surprisingly recent) English translation of Tove Jansson’s Fair Play, which I suspect will be a new favorite. Among other things, it’s about editing, in art and in life— an ongoing making and remaking of things, of days. An excerpt from the introduction:

The book opens, then, on a simple little story about letting someone change things, which becomes a story about the editing process, or about how to make art—and is for the length of the book a parable about how to renew mundane life. “Look here’s a thing of mine and here’s your drawing, and they clash. We need distance; it’s essential.” Fair Play is often an excellent handbook of advice and rules for the workings of art—but it’s never just about aesthetic wisdom. It’s also very much about emotional wisdom.

Tove Jansson’s work is edited to the barest number of words needed to say the thing, yet expresses so much more than simply what the words say. If you don’t come at it from the right angle, or if you try to race through her work, you may mistake it for simplistic writing. In fact it’s very nuanced and quietly powerful, and should be taken in in a languorous way, meandered through. From chapter one, Changing Pictures:

And over the years, she’d learned not to interfere with Jonna’s plans and their mysterious blend of perfectionism and nonchalance. Some people just shouldn’t be disturbed in their inclinations. A reminder can instantly turn enthusiasm into aversion and spoil everything.

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