The Rabbit Box: A Most Unusual Vintage Children’s Book for Grownups Celebrating the Mystery of Life and the Magic of Love
By Maria Popova
In 1970, poet, playwright, and former priest Joseph Pintauro teamed up with artist Norman Laliberté on a marvelous limited-edition boxed set titled The Rainbow Box, containing four children’s books for grownups, each dedicated to a season and full of playful and poignant fragmentary meditations on love, loss, war, peace, loneliness, communion — in other words, the emotional kaleidoscope of life itself. Dedicated to spring was The Rabbit Box (public library) — a most unusual lens on themes both of the time (the dawn of the environmental movement, the anti-war movement) and timeless (love, peace, the meaning of the human experience), equal parts strange and spectacular.
What emerges is a poem, a love letter, an elegy for Mother Earth, an incantation against war, and above all a vibrant invitation to aliveness.
Laliberté’s art and design are as striking as Pintauro’s writing — haunting found photographs of children and lovers and soldiers become visual metaphors for the very polarities Pintauro explores in his breathtaking text, which Laliberté renders in beautiful hand-lettering.
The weirdness and wonderfulness of the story, at first so strange it renders one unable to understand where it is going, converge to remind us of Gertrude Stein’s memorable observation: “If you enjoy it, you understand it.”
The book is divided into several subtle “chapters,” each eulogizing — or perhaps elegizing — a particular object of wistful affection. Pintauro’s luminous lamentation for Mother Earth is especially moving — doubly so today, nearly half a century later, as we’re facing our part in the destruction of a benevolent planet that has given us nothing but unconditional nourishment.
But the most beautiful part of the book explores the transcendent magic of falling and staying in love:
Complement The Rabbit Box, which is long out of print but well worth the hunt, with The Magic Box, the part of the set dedicated to autumn and celebrating the invigorating beauty of the cycle of life and death.
Published August 19, 2015