Vive Tintin! IT WAS OVER 20 years ago that I bought my first Tintin book in a discount outlet store in the Lower East Side of New York City. Recently I purchased my 15th book, and I am still searching for more of the same adventure series. Tintin, by Herge' (no last name), is written in comic book form although the subject matter and story can be enjoyed by adults.
Tintin, boy reporter, travels around the world. He visits the Incas (Prisoners of the Sun) and Egypt (Cigars of the Pharaoh), solving complicated mysteries that often involve foreign intrigue.
Herge', a Belgian, has been translated from the French into over two dozen other languages. The English versions of his Tintin stories are published by Joy Street-Little, Brown; numerous titles are in print and available at any good book store. Herge' also drew a weekly comic strip that appeared in newspapers throughout Europe from 1940 to 1960. His comic illustrations can best be described as a hybrid of Dick Tracy and the old Classic Comic series which mixed realism, education and adventure. All the Tintin books are carefully detailed in full color which only accentuates the richness of the stories. JAN GOLDMAN Fredericksburg, Va. Silver Screens ONE OF the earliest and most refreshing accounts of Hollywood filmmaking can be found in My Ten Years in the Studios (Little, Brown, 1940) by actor George Arliss (1868-1946). Since many Arliss films are currently being shown on cable TV, his literate autobiography is an entertaining supplement.
Arliss remains an anomaly in movies: As a 19th-century actor, he was alone among his generation to star in Hollywood films of the 1930s. His contemporaries were relegated to supporting roles, retired or dead. Fortunately, he never became infected with Tinsel Town's sense of self-importance.
Arliss modestly tells his readers that he merely "suggested" certain projects or "offered" advice on scripts. Later recollections by co-workers stress that Arliss in fact rewrote whole portions of scripts and reheased his casts so thoroughly prior to filming that a director was unnecessary. The films must have been profitable because Warner Brothers bitterly complained when Darryl Zanuck lured Arliss over to Twentieth Century-Fox where, as a matter of fact, he made his best films (especially "The House of Rothschild").
Much of the book's humor comes from Arliss's professed ignorance of Hollywood protocol, both technically and tribally. Characteristically, he ended up being the only actor in film history to compete against himself for an Academy Award; he was simultaneously nominated for Best Actor in two films but won for only one (for his role in "Disraeli"). Readers may also want to locate his first autobiography, Up the Years From Bloomsbury (Little, Brown, 1928), where he relates his life before Hollywood beckoned. Any good library will have these titles. ROBERT M. FELLS Centreville, Va. Pun Fun A NEGLECTED classic is How To Tell the Birds From the Flowers by Robert R. Wood. This distinguished physicist wrote this little gem in 1917, and it was reprinted by Dover in 1959. The book consists of a couple of dozen little poems, each accompanied by a pair of drawings, each pair devoted to distinguishing a crow from a crocus, or a plover from a clover, or an antelope from a canteloupe, or whatever. It is remarkable that he can draw pictures of a clover and a plover, each clearly identifiable, yet with the two drawings almost identical. And the poetry, in spite of some awful puns, exhibits a winsome wit. ROBERT E. MACHOL Washington Before the Sun Set HAVING LIVED in India and Pakistan, I've been impressed by how well British author Rumer Godden understands and conveys the complexities of the subcontinent -- abilities that elude most foreigners. She has written about the area in a variety of books, perhaps most notably the novels The River and Black Narcissus and a memoir she wrote with her sister about their childhood near Dakha, Two Under the Indian Sun. But the book I like best is her more obscure 1946 memoir of five months on a remote Himalayan tea plantation, Thus Far and No Further.
Thus Far and No Further has two very different elements -- a perceptive picture of India and a more universal story of a woman bringing order into her life at a difficult period. The year was 1941, Godden's husband was away in the war and her marriage in any case was in bad shape. With her two young daughters and a little entourage of mostly well-meaning but none too competent servants, she settled into a primitive bungalow, "an island entirely surrounded by tea," at the end of a precipitous road 18 miles beyond Darjeeling. The book is a series of small events and pleasures and reflections as she adjusts to solitude, gardens, makes a life for her children and recharges her own creative energy. Godden discusses this period rather more frankly in her recent autobiography, A Time To Dance, No Time To Weep, but there is something about the restraint of the out-of-print earlier work that is particularly appealing, and that makes it a solace to turn back to when life looks a little rocky. CAROLYN MATHIASEN Washington
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