Retroview: The Little Prince

An explanation of what a Retroview is can be found here, though it should be pretty clear from this text.

The first time I read The Little Prince, I think i was probably around 16. That’s pretty old for a book stereotypically for kids, but I’ve never believed in being held back because my parents didn’t know that there were better books out there.

I was actually reading it (in English) because we were going to read it soon in French class (in French) and I believe in having as many advantages as you can. But I was surprised by the book. In the best possible way. Though the translation was sometimes clunky, it was always charming in a way that made it clear that the original was too.

The story of the little prince is rather simple. A little boy leaves his home planet, of which he was the only inhabitant, except for his rose, and travels awhile before arriving on Earth and meeting our narrator, a stranded pilot, in the desert. It’s not the plotting of the book which makes it great though, it’s the quiet charm of the way in which it is told.

It begins with the narrator explaining that in his childhood, he was discouraged from drawing because he had no great talent for it, nor was there any respectable future in it. But this serves only as an excuse for the poor pictures that accompany the story.

Most notable though, are the little jibe against adults that pervade the story. The five men that the little prince meets on his journey that leads him to earth serve to remind all of us of our predisposition to self-importance, even when we lack any legitimate reason for feeling that way.

The narrator also subtlety suggests that all our values are wrong. That those of the little prince, of simple wonder at life, of the role of little things that are personally rather than publicly important, are far more worthwhile.

This is what I always have, and still do, love so much about the book. It offers an alternative to all the way that we can go wrong.

If one refuses the possibility that a child can be wiser than an adult, this book could become grating. But if you’re at least willing to accept the possibility, give this charming little book a chance.

big ideas, metablogging, retroview, review

Retroviews, An Introduction

A REtroVIEW (or simply retroview) is an idea I have been kicking around for some time. It is, at the lowest-level, a review of something old.

More importantly, it is a review of something old which has long-standing personal importance. That is, it’s a review of a book you always loved, a movie you always hated, or a thing that scared you when you were seven years old.

What makes the composition of a retroview different from that of a review is that a retroview both acknowledges and utilizes the personal meaning of the object in question.

Where in a review you are to make a judgment on the value of the work alone: how it exists in itself, without any attached emotional or personal significance; in a retroview you are freed from any such pretension. By acknowledging upfront that you have prejudices about the material, you are freer to discuss it honestly and less likely to come off sounding unjust.

Personally, one of the first books that I ever really loved intensely was The Little Prince. And as a blogger I may want to bring attention to said book by reviewing it, despite its age. Thus, I can write a retroview about the book acknowledging, both implicitly in my header and explicitly in my text, it’s past and continuing significance for me.

Retroviews are often done, but without acknowledgment of this inherent nostalgia. They are usually given other, but less useful, guises: as reviews of the new DVD release or the 40th anniversary edition. I’m not accusing such labellings of dishonesty, but rather an extreme lack of creativity in its titles.

If you doubt the substantial biases of retroviews, look at any reviews written of Citizen Kane, or a similarly old movie, written in recent time. You will certainly find in these reviews an undue tenderness for the review’s subject. One that is perhaps undue and certainly different from an initial or more immediate reaction to such a film.

Citizen Kane got notoriously bad reviews (especially, but not exclusively, from the papers of William Randolph Hearst) when it was released in 1941. Orsen Welles, the boy genius, had failed to live up to his own hype.

Yet reviewing this movie today no one, not even one working at a former Hearst newspaper, would dare to say a single bad thing about it. It would be bad for their reputation as a critic (the consensus is too well established), and to their fond memories of their first discovery of the film.

So whether or not you chose to use this moniker on your own REtroVIEWs is your own decision. But for me, that’s what they’ll always be.

And do expect the first one to come soon.