GHOTCZ 7: buried treasure

Old book stores in the Ceezy are really pretty remarkable. Partly because I’m completely illiterate in them.

Since I can barely read the language at hand, however, it tends to make me notice different things.  Last week, the P and I were just nosing around in one near our apartment when we discovered an amazing little group of  home-made scrapbooks, one of which I had to have, immediately.

Each one was just a simple collection of photos cut out of magazines, but organized thematically: one book was pictures of European cinema stars, one of Hollywood stars, another, photos of the Kennedy family. What made them so special for me was the context: it was clear that each book was collaged together by some young woman, growing up in post WWII Czechoslovakia, well into the Communist era.

None of the images in the book I chose were any later than the mid-50′s, many being of movie stars and pictures from the 40′s. Each page was carefully noted with the stars’ names: Cary Grant, Claudette Colbert, Ida Lupino, Lucille Ball, Orson Welles…I’ve been on a classic film kick ever since Bogliasco (renting movies on iTunes), and so I’ve been falling in love with a lot of these stars for the first time, myself.

But there’s something implicit in the Czech history of this  book that I found really fascinating: the sense that this was created by a girl growing up under state control, but still dreaming of the glamorous, fantastic worlds she saw in fan magazines and movies (perhaps imported well-past their show-dates in the US). And the creation of the book was so tender: the perfect script employed to write out the stars’ names, the care in organizing and gluing the pictures down, enclosing all of these treasures in a simple little book. I imagined it tucked under her bed, or on her bedroom shelf.

There was one Czech actress in the book (Libuše Zemková), whose picture on the page below was so lovely, it made me immediately curious about the Czech film industry post WWII and about the lives of, and opportunities for, actors and actresses in that era. Given how many theatres Prague still has, and what a thriving performance culture there still seems to be, it made me realize how little I know about something so vital. It made me want to know more.

Growing up in Malaysia, I absolutely fetishized American culture, and collected little scraps and images from magazines in similar ways. Later, going to community college in suburban California, aspiring to be an artist but not knowing anything about the larger world of art yet, I kept my own nerdy little scrapbooks of art I liked and cut out of magazines, too.

These days when I’m saving images, I just drag them off the internet and put them into folders inside of folders on my computer. It’s definitely still a continuation of my magpie-esque image-hoarding practice, but books like this one remind me how much more special, and enduring, a scrapbook is over a laptop.

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