Bali's beaches have long been the preferred destination of Australians looking for a place to get drunk and high and fucked, but Ubud has always been more of a cultural center, a place where artists around the world would learn from Indonesian artisans, work, and find a little peace amid the stunningly beautiful setting. Then, in 2006, Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love brought Ubud into the mainstream as a spiritual hotspot for finding yourself after a failed relationship, and what followed was a surge of development. She accelerated a process already in motion, but her descriptions of Ubud as a place of healing and awakening sparked countless pilgrimages. People started to come to Bali not just for a sunny retreat, but to live the good life.
My son made me realize that we are also a genetic code that travels through time. We are ancestors. We are descendants. And while we can’t fix the problems of the past in the present, we can make sure that we break the patterns that formed those problems. We can make sure the problems of our ancestors don’t plague our descendants. I want to be a good ancestor. Because I want my son to be a good ancestor someday too.
We don’t have to be the people our parents raised us to be. We need to be the people our children need us to be. The truth is our children raise us more than our parents ever did.
My two older kids liked books fine, but were never this eager or interested at such a young age. Perhaps it’s because when he brings me a book, everything else stops and I am suddenly speaking to and giving attention only to him—not his brothers or my work emails or the dinner dishes. But it’s not just the story or even the pictures that intrigue him—he loves manipulating the book itself.
Board books—those roughly 6” square books printed on thick paperboard that average a dozen pages or so, with vibrant illustrations and a sentence per page—are ubiquitous nowadays. And their popularity shows no sign of abating. Indeed, they have seen some of the largest growth of any book category: According to Nielsen, sales rose 7.4 percent over the previous year in 2016. And from 2010 to 2015, sales skyrocketed from 17 million units to 31 million units.
But where did it all start: when did we first think to make books catering to the sensibilities and durability needs of small children?
This is—to use another Americanism—horsefeathers. American and British English differ on many levels: spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary, style and grammar. Mr Engel focuses on showing that some British words are giving way to, or making room for, American alternatives. But these are a fraction of the huge vocabulary otherwise shared by the two dialects. It is easy to find a newspaper article in which not a single word (spelling aside) is distinctly British or American. In other domains (recipes and car-parts, for example) differences are frequent. But these domains are local and personal, and highly resistant to change.
If you wanted to devote an entire book to a year in Victorian Britain, 1858 would not be an obvious choice. Rosemary Ashton, who has done just that, admits as much. No famous novel was published, and the government, like many just before it, collapsed in a vote of no confidence. Historians prefer 1859: Charles Darwin published his “On the Origin of Species”, the Liberal Party was founded, and Dickens, Tennyson, Eliot and Mill all produced major works. 1861 brought the death of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria’s withdrawal from public life. So why 1858?
I wanted to be my father: leave, return, leave again saying nothing to no one.