Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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1872: Greyfriars Bobby Dies, but Hoboken Patrasche is Born!
I'd never heard of the English novelist Ouida, let alone her 1872 children's book, A Dog of Flanders, until the other day, when I mentioned to one of my Japanese conversation partners that I was about to go to Antwerp for the first time, and she brought it up.

This ultra-depressing tale of a destitute boy and his faithful but doomed hound, dying of exposure in Antwerp Cathedral, has I believe has been largely forgotten in the UK, and was never well known in Belgium; but it turns out it's regarded as a classic in Japan and South Korea, and has been televised in numerous versions in both countries. I'm always interested in this kind of "prophet without honour in his own country" survival: When Marnie Was There/Memories of Marnie is another notable instance (although in that case I had at least read the original off my own bat).

Anyway, the burghers of Antwerp were apparently taken by surprise when Korean and Japanese tourists turned up asking to be shown to the sites of the book's various events. Nothing daunted, they arranged for statues and plaques to be erected, so that the tourists would have something to photograph. But in which district of Antwerp was the majority of the story set? The novel never names it, and Ouida herself had only ever spent four hours in Antwerp. But how could literary pilgrimages be made, documented and uploaded to the cloud, without more specific information? The exasperated officials decided more or less arbitrarily that the novel was set in Hoboken, and erected another statue there to prove it. So now, when far-eastern tourists ask where these entirely fictional events really happened, the authorities are able to point them to the exact spot.

I will try to take a photograph when I'm there on Wednesday and Thursday, so as to have ocular proof.

That horrible book was required reading for fourth graders at the school I taught at. (The literature curriculum was based on children's classics, good, but the choices were god-awful, picked by an extremely conservative woman back in the fifties, and the school refused to change after--figuring classics only got better, right?)


This post took on a surreal aspect for me because I think of Hoboken as a place in New Jersey, and there's a Daniel Pinkwater book titled Jolly Roger, a Dog of Hoboken (which I am now guessing is a deliberate reference to the Ouida book). Pinkwater has set several other books entirely or partly in Hoboken, including The Hoboken Chicken Emergency and Chicago Days, Hoboken Nights.

Pinkwater has set several other books entirely or partly in Hoboken, including The Hoboken Chicken Emergency and Chicago Days, Hoboken Nights.

I also associate Hoboken inextricably with Pinkwater, in my case almost entirely because of the chicken.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908) is another half-forgotten English-language children's novel that's beloved in Japan. Tour buses full of Japanese tourists make regular stops at the Prince Edward Island farm where the story is (actually? supposedly?) set.

I'm curious at the notion of Anne of Green Gables as half-forgotten. I hear people talking about it quite often, and I always have, my whole life; it's iconic. What country are you in? I'm in the US.

I'm aware of Anne of Green Gables mostly as a book that my wife read when young, and still has a copy of. But it's not one that comes up in discussions that I've had - and I'm one of the few male members of a book club of late-middle-aged women - not like, say, Little Women does.

But I asked B. (my wife) and she agrees with you.

Perhaps it's me. I've read Little Women, and seen several dramatizations of it. My personal experience with Anne is zilch.

Interesting! In my circle of people, which includes children's lit professionals plus lots of non-children's-lit people in our 30s, 40s, and 50s, it's fully as iconic as Little Women.

In my circle of people, which includes children's lit professionals plus lots of non-children's-lit people in our 30s, 40s, and 50s, it's fully as iconic as Little Women.

Ditto. I knew people who in elementary school had incredibly strong opinions about the different film and TV versions. It still has currency among most of my friend groups; the question is then whether you've read Emily of New Moon and its sequels or The Blue Castle.

Fwiw, in Japan Anne of Green Gables is known as Red-haired Anne: presumably the hair colour was deemed more interesting than a random architectural feature. I've seen the story referenced in more than one anime.

Inexplicably, I have heard of the title, though I couldn't have told you anything about it.

This ultra-depressing tale of a destitute boy and his faithful but doomed hound, dying of exposure in Antwerp Cathedral, has I believe has been largely forgotten in the UK, and was never well known in Belgium; but it turns out it's regarded as a classic in Japan and South Korea, and has been televised in numerous versions in both countries.

I feel like I might have skipped reading it in my grandmother's Books of Knowledge.

Nothing daunted, they arranged for statues and plaques to be erected, so that the tourists would have something to photograph.

I love when that happens, so long as everyone remembers the actual timeline.

Edited at 2017-03-06 05:36 am (UTC)

I think Ouida is the novelist who was dismissed by some contemporary critic as being fit only for washerwomen to read the very day (I expect my memory is over-dramatising this) that Queen Victoria ordered a complete set, saying how much she liked them.

I do hope that's true!

I'm now having qualms - maybe it was Marie Corelli? Oh, dear! (Though Victoria definitely did read both of them.)

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