Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pinocchio — fabulism is what makes boys real
It was a big sale day at the local used bookshop and I picked up The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. I had never read it and only vaguely knew the Disney movie from having seen it about three decades ago and not since. I got it to read it aloud to my kids at night.
The popularity of the story is genuine. It is a strange story. I cannot remember the movie well enough so I came to the book without any notions except that the puppet was lazy (as many boys tend to be), had a nose that grew when he lied, and that in the end he became a real boy.
I can say that it is not at all a great book, but it is interesting and worthy.
Kids love the absurdity of it. We must practice suspending disbelief as we become increasingly aware that reality is all that there is to believe in. This practice is what we get when we consume stories, both real and fiction. In this case, the fiction is so crazy that it is at times a bit tiresome.
Nonetheless, enchanting is a better word for most of it. And my kids agree. They wanted to be done with it, but they also remained for the most part rapt with the story.
My older boy had had the story read to him by his teacher. I thought maybe it had been a shortened version–certainly it was a different translation (e.g. Candlewick vs. Lampwick). Since he knew the story, he would state the next major meeting the moment before it happened. He did this for the evil Fox and Cat and also for the Snail and the Dogfish and…
Well, the point is that my son knew the story quite well, so there is evidence that it is memorable, and for that reason it should be read…even if it’s not really all that great a story.
I found the other Goodreads reviews interesting in terms of the relationship of the story to the movie. I have a friend who loves the movie and hates the book. I think I will now have to watch the movie. Serendipitously, my friend just happened to give us a copy on DVD.
Final comment: The dogfish part is just really too much. It is completely absurd, but without the nod and wink that there is absurdity going on. I think that this is its real strength, and this is why the story is still hugely popular and important for children.
Fabulism is the general term for fiction and we, today, and since Collodi’s time, suffer from entirely too much realism. This story reminds that fantasy is part of life.
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