Tag Archives: reading

I Dare You All, Test Your Strength: Open a Book

Chuck Jones found inspiration in many places, but of all of the sources, reading was perhaps the most fertile place for him. Here’s a letter he wrote exhorting its reader(s) to “test your strength: open a book.”

letters of note CJ

 

Transcript:

Knowing how to read and not reading books is like owning skis and not skiing, owning a board and never riding a wave, or, well, having your favorite sandwich in your hand and not eating it. If you owned a telescope that would open up the entire universe for you would you try to find reason for not looking through it? Because that is exactly what reading is all about; it opens up the universe of humour, of adventure, of romance, of climbing the highest mountain, of diving in the deepest sea.

I found my first experience with Wile E. Coyote in a whole hilarious chapter about coyotes in a book called Roughing It by Mark Twain. I found the entire romantic personality of Pepe Le Pew in a book written by Kenneth Roberts, Captain Hook. I found bits and pieces of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and all the others in wonderful, exciting books.

I dare you all, test your strength: Open a book.

Sincerely,

[Source: Letters of Note]

Jones Family Gathering Welcomes a Special Guest!

At last night's gala dinner on the patio of Lou & Mickey's (at the very heart of San Diego's historic Gaslamp Quarter–previously known as the "Stingaree"), the Jones Family Gathering welcomed a very special guest, one of Chuck Jones's favorite authors and wits.

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This author has been gone from this world for over a century, so our 'reception' was at times a little blurry, but we kept fiddling with the knobs and dials of our "Way Back Machine" (not to be confused with Peabody & Sherman's WABAC machine), and he eventually came into clearer focus.  

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To everyone's amazement and delight it was that rascal and raconteur, the inimitable Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens).  Mr. Twain was gracious enough to stroll among us, delighting us with bits and pieces of his encyclopedic knowledge of all things west of the Mississippi (and some things east of it too!)

Chuck Jones began reading at age three and around the age of seven (circa 1919) discovered the writings of Mark Twain, in particular a book Twain wrote about his and his brother's trip by stagecoach out to the gold fields of the Sacramento basin in 1849 ("a miner, a 'forty-niner', oh my darlin' Clementine…"), titled "Roughing It".  One particular passage stuck with Chuck, and it was Twain's description of the coyote (which is repeated below for your edification); it was a description, Chuck said, that resonated with a scrawny, seven-year-old, and one that when needed about 20 years later, provided much of the characterization of one of Jones's most enduring and popular characters.  Let's see, who could that be?

Twain wrote: 

"Along about an hour after breakfast we saw the first prairie dog villages, the first antelope, and the first wolf. If I remember rightly, this latter was the regular coyote (pronounced ky-o-te) of the farther deserts. And if it was, he was not a pretty creature or respectable either, for I got well acquanited with his race afterward, and can speak with confidence.

The coyote is a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton, with a gray wolfskin stretched over it, a tolerably bushy tail that forever sags down with a despairing expression of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long, sharp face, with slightly lifted lip and exposed teeth. He has a general slinking expression all over. The coyote is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry. He is always poor, out of luck, and friendless. The meanest creatures despise him, and even the fleas would desert him for a velocipede. He is so spirtless and cowardly that even while his exposed teeth are pretending a threat, the rest of his face is apologizing for it. And he is so homely! -so scrawny, and ribby, and coarse-haired, and pitiful."

The White Seal

In 1974, Chuck Jones brought to life the story of Kotick, the white seal, while a vice-president in charge of children’s programming at ABC.  This television special was based on the story of survival and perseverance of a group of seals living in the Bering Straits.  The original tale is by Rudyard Kipling and can be found in his collection* of stories, “The Jungle Book”.   Chuck Jones also recreated for television two other Kipling tales, “Rikki Tikki Tavi” 1975 and “Mowgli’s Brothers” 1976.  This image below is a recreation by lithography of an original production cel and background used in the film and later featured on the cover of the book based on the television special “The White Seal”. 

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*From “Chuck Amuck” by Chuck Jones:  “We always had books in the house we lived in.  We not only had books, we had books (old or new) that were fresh to us.  The way it worked was this: a house in those days of the early twenties had books.  Incredible as it seems, that’s what people did: they read.  We didn’t have a phonograph until I was twelve, a radio until I was seventeen, or television until I was forty-six.

“So that left books.  When you rented a furnished house, it was equipped with furniture and books.  …Father would scout around for a furnished house.  “Furnished” in his lexicon meant furnished with books, hundreds being mandatory, thousands being preferable.  Colonel Terhune’s big house on the Speedway in Ocean Park had thousands of books, as did Times editor Harry Carr’s place on Mount Washington Drive, so the six or seven or eight of our family stayed in each house for over five years, until we had exhausted the supply,  a sort of omnivorous plague of indiscriminate readers.”