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Fair play by Tove Jansson

Fair play (original 1989; edition 2010)

by Tove Jansson

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3401932,303 (4.04)70
Title:Fair play
Authors:Tove Jansson
Info:New York : New York Review Books, [2010]
Collections:Your library
Tags:GLBTRT, Over the Rainbow Book List, 2012

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Fair Play by Tove Jansson (1989)


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There is lots of fair play in this collection of linked sketches, but above all else, there is a love story. Not a romantic book, not a steamy novel, it is a quiet picture of two people deeply in love, able to give each other time together and time alone.

The reader is drawn slowly to this realization. The first episode, "Changing Pictures", has a rather bossy woman bustling around her friend's apartment, organizing and rehanging pictures, discarding ephemera, gaining definition for the display. In the next vignette, the scene is set: They lived at opposite ends of a large apartment building near the harbor, and between their studios lay the attic, an impersonal no-man's- land of tall corridors with locked plank doors on either side. Mari liked wandering across the attic; it drew a necessary, neutral interval between their domains. She could pause on the way to listen to the rain on the metal roof, look out across the city as it lit its lights, or just linger for the pleasure of it.
They never asked "Were you able to work today?" Maybe they had twenty or thirty years earlier, but they'd gradually learned not to. There are empty spaces that must be respected -- those often long periods when a person can't see the pictures or find the words and needs to be left alone.

The two were meeting for one of their film and discussion nights. This night it would be Fassbinder, another night it might be Robin Hood. As the book moves on through the seasons and the years, we see the two women, one an artist and one a writer, in the most domestic of situations. They are completely comfortable with one another, supportive of each other's work, yet fiercely independent in their creative lives.

Summers see them on their island in the Gulf of Finland, winters in the city. They bicker about their respective mothers, hang out in a bar in Phoenix, they do the chores and go fishing. In the hands of most writers, tedium would be mounting swiftly, but with each episode, Jansson develops the relationship in a way that makes the reader care about their lives. By the time the final surprising story is told,, the resolution seems completely apt.

This book of course is the story of Jansson and her lover Tuulikki Pietila, written when Jansson was in her mid-seventies. There is a sense of looking back on life, together with the assurance that despite encroaching age that life is by no means finished. There are always new possibilities.
4 vote SassyLassy | Sep 3, 2015 |
Beautiful. ( )
  beckydj | Aug 19, 2015 |
A slim volume of linked vignettes, this is a nice look into the creative process and how art can enrich even seemingly mundane lives. I liked the writing and look forward to reading more of Jansson's work; there just wasn't enough here to base a higher or lower rating on. Still, a pleasant couple hours' read. ( )
  katiekrug | Nov 14, 2014 |
All's fair in art and love. Fair Play really is amazing. ( )
  BooktotheFuture | Oct 18, 2014 |
Even at her most obvious, Jansson is fantastic. ( )
  danlai | Sep 1, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tove Janssonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Teal, ThomasTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, AliIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'Fair Play' portrays a love between two older women, a writer and artist, as they work side-by-side in their Helsinki studios, travel together and share summers on a remote island.

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