Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jan Wahl - author extraordinaire and friend of Louise Brooks

I just got off the phone with Jan Wahl, the celebrated children's book author and longtime friend of Louise Brooks.

We talked about many things, including books, old theaters, the movies - both classic and contemporary, and of course Brooks herself. This is the first time Jan and I have spoken on the phone, though we have exchanged letters and books. (I also met Jan's niece some years back.)

Jan recounted a number of stories about the Brooks, some of which were included in his books and other writings, and some of which I had never heard before (and wouldn't dare repeat).

Jan has known and befriended many interesting and famous people over the years. He several months working with noted filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer during the filming of Ordet (The Word), and later turned that into a fascinating book from the University Press of Kentucky. He was also for a time the personal secretary to Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), the celebrated novelist and short story writer.

In the course of our 30 minute conversation, Wahl also recounted anecdotes of encounters with the likes of artist Jasper Johns, sculptor Alexander Calder, and photographer Edward Steichen.

His very first book, Pleasant Fieldmouse (1964), was illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Another early book, Cobweb Castle (1968), was illustrated by Edward Gorey, whom he knew.

I want to encourage everyone to seek out Jan Wahl's books. They are recommended, and he is a gifted writer and storyteller. These two books by Wahl, Dear Stinkpot: Letters From Louise Brooks, and Through a Lens Darkly, belong on the bookshelf of every Brooks fan. Go get a copy today!

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