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Book Report: More suggestions for seasonal shoppers

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columns Hastings, 55033

Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

Today we'll make some suggestions about new books dealing with art and culture you might want to put on your holiday giving list.

I've never been a reader of comic strips and I'm the lesser for it. My morning coffee mate keeps talking about Gary Trudeau and his Doonesbury strip and I sit there dumbfounded.

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Recently, I had a chance to catch up and I recommend a book for holiday giving to folks who love Doonesbury or want to learn about it. It's called "Doonesbury and the Art of G.B. Trudeau," by Brian Walker (Yale University Press, $49.95).

It's an ambitious book, a real doorstopper, chock full of color shots of photos and strips that define Trudeau and his work. One of the amazing things about this ton of a tome is how Trudeau's artistic abilities have improved since he was a snotty young Yalie and could barely draw a comprehensible line.

You'll learn all manner of facts. One of my favorites is how he named his main character. Trudeau explains that at Yale a loveable nerd was called a "Doone." Trudeau's roommate was Charles Pillsbury of Minneapolis, of the flour milling Pillsburys. He was also a Doone.

Add that to "Bury" and you've got Doonesbury.

Here's a book that any film buff needs in his reference library. It's "The New Biographical Dictionary of Film," by David Thompson (Knopf, $40).

It's a huge book and it really digs deeply into the history of actors and the films they made. It's so comprehensive it makes Leonard Maltin's several books about movies and their stars and directors look pale indeed.

Thompson doesn't leave actors and actresses out because they're out of style and that's what makes his book better than Maltin's, especially if you're an old duffer like me and want to know about actors like Brian Donlevy and Helen Twelvetrees, who held sway in the '30s and '40s.

Thompson also isn't shy about telling you the weaknesses as well as the strengths of actors and directors alike.

With World War II raging on the continent, the irresistibly outrageous Noel Coward put pen to paper, then sang what he wrote in the music halls of London. Here's a sample:

"Don't let's be beastly to the Germans

When we've definitely got them on the run--

Let us treat them very kindly as we would a valued friend--

We might send them out some Bishops as a form lease and lend,

Let's be sweet to them--

And day by day repeat to them

That sterilization simply isn't done.

Let's help the dirty swine again--

To occupy the Rhine again,

But don't let's be beastly to the Hun.

Don't let's be beastly to the Germans

When the age of peace and plenty has begun.

We must send them steel and oil and coal and everything they need

For their peaceable intentions can be always guaranteed.

Let's employ with them a sort of 'strength through joy' with them,

They're better than us at honest manly fun.

Let's let them feel they're swell again and bomb us all to hell again,

But don't let's be beastly to the Hun."

I found that in a new treasury called "The Noel Coward Reader," edited by Barry Day ("Knopf, $39.95).

Day's commentary is almost as good as his subject. He points out that when Coward first sang the above song, the BBC banned it from the air because they were so stupid they thought it was pro-German.

So much for the British sense of humor....Unless you count fellows like Noel Coward.

When I was an undergraduate, I had never seen a foreign film, unless you count a few from Great Britain filmed at Ealing Studios and starring Alec Guinness.

And then to little Eau Claire State came the foreign film program sponsored by The Phillips Foundation. The movies were free, they were in other languages with subtitles.

I went to the first movie, "Umberto D," directed by Vittorio de Sica and I was hooked. After that I saw "The Red Inn" with Fernandel and several other wonderful movies. These film programs continued at Bowling Green University because the local movie house in town refused to show them because they were "dirty."

So we just dropped everything on weekends and went to the university to see movies like "The Seventh Seal," "Pather Panchali," and "Rashoman." The trend died out when the U.S. began making better, more "adult" films.

For those who remember that era and for those who would like to know about it, I recommend "The Foreign Film Renaissance on American Screens," by Tino Balio (University of Wisconsin Press, $26.95 paper).

Fans of 19th century theater history would appreciate a gift entitled "Sarah," the latest life of Sarah Bernhardt, by former New Yorker editor, Robert Gottlieb (Yale University Press, $25).

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.

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