It’s been a while since I’ve done a proper book review, so today I have chosen Harold and the Purple Crayon 1955, by Crockett Johnson. It’s a delightful tale about a boy and his purple crayon and the many places your imagination can take you. It is a powerful piece of literature, sure to keep you engrossed for hours, the interpersonal play among the main characters, intricately woven amid a backdrop of suspense and drama…
No, actually it is just a children’s book about a boy and his purple crayon, but one that had a powerful impact on me and perhaps on many others. Here it is more than 60 years later and people are still enchanted with Harold and the Purple Crayon.
In that tiny little book, Crockett Johnson sparked two things within me, my passion for stalking authors and demanding to know, whatever were you thinking and why, and also my love for observing systems, culture, design, social engineering. Harold is building culture, building an entire world, manifesting a utopian vision. I actually do not wish to achieve world domination or build utopia, but I am still fascinated by observing that process out in the world at large.
Crockett Johnson is himself a fascinating character, about as far left as you can possibly go, the Great Depression having politicized him to the point of becoming a cartoonist for the communist publication, New Masses, which he later became an art editor for.
He was actually also an artist who painted over a 100 extraordinary geometrics, designs that merged mathematics and geometry, what he himself called, “a series of romantic tributes to the great geometric mathematicians from Pythagoras on up.” Some 80 of his paintings are on display at the Smithsonian, National Museum of American History and can be viewed here.