Saturday, November 26, 2016

Summerlong


In Summerlong, a girl called Lionness has uncanny abilities. She smells like meadows, enchants children and calms Orcas. She owns nothing of value and yet she lives rent-free in an older couple's garage. 

Abe thinks she looks like Botticelli's Primavera; Joanna, his live-in wife, agrees to let the girl stay in their garage. She worries, though, that her daughter, Lily, will fall in love with Lionnness.

Though they love each other, the couple's relationship is seriously strained when Lionness' husband comes looking for her at the restaurant where she works.

At this point, the novel makes a U-turn. Abe makes love to Lionness, though its never really clear why. He's in his sixties and she is presumably in her twenties but actually something non-human, Queen of the Underworld.

If Abe is unfaithful, Joanna, often called Delvechio, wants to do the same with Mr. Mardikian, who is really the God of the Underworld. First, though, she wants to shoot hoops.

Beagle combines the fantastic with the prosaic in such a superb way that none of it seems outlandish.

Peter Beagle wrote his best known work, The Last Unicorn, while in his twenties.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Stranger Things (TV Series)


Set in the eighties, this nostalgic TV series is a horror drama starring Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine and Milly Bobby Brown.

When a local boy, Will, goes missing, his middle school friends poignantly launch their own investigation. Coincidently, A girl with no memories wanders down the same road, Mirkwood, where the local boy disappeared.

She is strong and vulnerable, an interesting contradiction. Mike, one of the kids looking for Will, shelters her in his basement.

Local police believe that Will has fallen into the quarry and accidently drowned. Joyce, the boy's mother, believes she can speak to him through a string of Christmas lights. Naturally, everyone surmises she's gone nuts with grief

For a plot like this, it would be easy for the series to fall into commonplace horror. The monster that chases them in the upside down is fairly classic horror--cobwebs, stickiness, facelessness.

Stranger Things doesn't descend, however, into comic book characterizations. Not all of the bad characters are entirely bad e.g. Steve, nor all of the heroes entirely good e.g. Hopper.

As in every work of horror, there is something terrible in the ordinary. Take nothing for granted, the genre seems to say.

Even the most polished, the most exemplary may be hiding a dark secret. Conversely, even the weakest or the most vulnerable may be strongest.





Creative work

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” Mary Oliver


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire LeGrande

In Some Kind of Happiness a young girl, Finley Hart, who is suffering from crippling anxiety, invents her own world, Everwood. She is surprised to find that Everwood is a real place, the woods behind her Grandparents’ house. While this could have been a simple story about magic, LeGrande’s story alternates between fantasy and Finley’s real-life traumas.

Finley has been sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer because her parents are having marital problems. Though Finley has never met her Dad’s family, she agrees to spend a summer with them.

Finley finds her Grandparents, Aunts and cousins, collectively known as The Harts, fascinating and intimidating at the same time. She longs  to be accepted by them because they seem to be the perfect family who are charitable, fun, and outgoing. They don’t have the anxiety problems that haunt her.

In her Everwood journal, Finley images herself to be an orphan girl who must keep the dark away from her precious woods. She wants to protect the Harts from the darkness but does not realize they are hiding their own dark secrets.

Brilliantly realized, this is a great story for young adults or middle schoolers.

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire LeGrande

In Some Kind of Happiness a young girl, Finley Hart, who is suffering from crippling anxiety, invents her own world, Everwood. She is surprised to find that Everwood is a real place, the woods behind her Grandparents’ house. While this could have been a simple story about magic, LeGrande’s story alternates between fantasy and Finley’s real-life traumas.

Finley has been sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer because her parents are having marital problems. Though Finley has never met her Dad’s family, she agrees to spend a summer with them.

Finley finds her Grandparents, Aunts and cousins, collectively known as The Harts, fascinating and intimidating at the same time. She longs  to be accepted by them because they seem to be the perfect family who are charitable, fun, and outgoing. They don’t have the anxiety problems that haunt her.

In her Everwood journal, Finley images herself to be an orphan girl who must keep the dark away from her precious woods. She wants to protect the Harts from the darkness but does not realize they are hiding their own dark secrets.

Brilliantly realized, this is a great story for young adults or middle schoolers.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse

The Taxidermist's Daughter is a novel about storytelling. Connie Gifford finds herself among storytellers.

Connie knows that taxidermy is a form of storytelling. She says of her father, "Although I called him a taxidermist, he himself would use the old terminology. A stuffer of birds is how he would introduce himself. He thought 'taxidermist' was too fancy...it took away from what he was doing...[t]elling stories."

Harry Woolston, her suitor, identifies with this, since he, too, is an artist and storyteller.

Harry tells Connie, "When I'm working on a portrait, I'm always thinking about everything that made my sitter the person they are, not just what's visible on the canvas."

"That's it," Connie replied. "It's the sense that if the bird--jackdaw, magpie, rook...could talk, it would tell you its life story."

Unfortunately, Connie doesn't know her own story. She doesn't remember the older woman who cared for her or the person who taught her poetry as a child. She remembers hitting her head, an "accident" that no one talks about.

A secret group, the Corvid Club, has committed a heinous crime.
Many lives have been ruined by the actions of the Corvid Club.
That's why Connie Gifford desperately needs to illuminate the darkness. She needs know her own story, one that is riddled with "vanished days."

The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse

The Taxidermist's Daughter is a novel about storytelling. Connie Gifford finds herself among storytellers. Her suitor, Mr. Woolston, asks her questions about her father and a mysterious figure, Cassie, in a critical scene. 

Connie says of her father, "Although I called him a taxidermist, he himself would use the old terminology. A stuffer of birds is how he would introduce himself. He thought 'taxidermist' was too fancy...it took away from what he was doing...[t]elling stories."

Mr. Woolston identifies with this, since he, too, is an artist and storyteller.

Harry tells Connie, "When I'm working on a portrait, I'm always thinking about everything that made my sitter the person they are, not just what's visible on the canvas."

"That's it," Connie replied. "It's the sense that if the bird--jackdaw, magpie, rook...could talk, it would tell you its life story."

Unfortunately, Connie doesn't know her own story. She doesn't remember the older woman who cared for her or the person who taught her poetry as a child. She remembers hitting her head, an "accident" that no one talks about.

A secret group, the Corvid Club, has committed a heinous crime.
Many lives have been ruined by the actions of the Corvid Club.
That's why Connie Gifford desperately needs to illuminate the darkness. She needs know her own story, one that is riddled with "vanished days."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Writing advice from Brian Doyle

"We are all storytellers and story-attentive beings. Otherwise we would never be loved or have a country or a religion. You do not need a sabbatical or a grant to write a book. Write a little bit every day."

Brian Doyle in 
TheAmericanscholar.org






I like the phrase he uses here "story-attentive."

Brian Doyle's most recent work,