The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
I know this film already made the rounds of the internet, especially after winning the Oscar for best animated short last month, but I couldn’t help but share it one more time. My friend showed me the film the day of the Oscars—I had never heard of it before then—and I fell in love with it. Books are meant to be read, meant to be loved. I love the idea of having gilded, leatherbound copies of classics filling my shelves and looking pretty. But just as much as that, I love a book that is loved, and shows it.
I love a book that you mark up not because any professor tells you where to find examples of cesura or dramatic irony, but because you want to know exactly where to find that particular line, how to preserve that particular passage. I love a book bent and broken from sitting in your back pocket, read and re-read in train stations, in coffee shops, by campfires, or simply curled up on a couch with your favorite puppy. I have a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass sitting on my bookshelf at home that is one of my favorite possessions. There’s nothing particularly special about the publication. A mass-market paperback of both books with John Tenniel’s illustrations. But the story. I picked up the book at a camp I went to with scouts. They had a sort of open library in the main cabin, one of those places you leave a book you’ve finished and pick up another someone else left behind. The pages are yellowed, the cover folded and torn. Some pages are smudged with soot, others are dripped with candlewax. This is a book that has been loved. This is a book I continue to love. I’ve lent and re-lent it, but always made sure to eventually get it back. I have a copy of The Annotated Alice on another shelf, and I love that book for the line notes and historical content it has. But when I want to return to Wonderland, return to the Red Queen and the frumious bandersnatch, this is the one I reach for.
The second time I watched, I was interested to find out the aging book “Mr. Morris” cares for is Jules Verne’s De la Terre à la Lune, the basis for Georges Méliès 1902 Le Voyage dans la lune. Méliès and his films, meanwhile, are featured in Hugo (another Oscar winning, visually striking film to feature beautiful book scenes). Hugo is a film deserving it’s own in-depth discussion, but one can only hope this trend of beautiful books in art and film is going to continue for for a while.