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October 2009

Thursday's Song

This week's tune is "Little Lion Man" by Mumford & Sons. The band, which consists of four musicians from West London, was formed in December 2007 and released their first album, Sigh No More, earlier this year. It's a terrific debut -- particularly if you're a fan of folk-inspired bands like The Decemberists.

You can also see a video of Marcus Mumford performing with last week's song-of-the-day musician, Laura Marling, here; and there's a live performance of "White Blank Page" here. For more information, and to hear more of their music, visit the Mumfords & Sons website and blog.


The Poem for the Day...


. . . is "The Girl Without Hands" by Debra Nystrom, from the Spring 2002 issue of The Virginia Quarterly Review. The poem is based on the Grimm's fairy tale of the same title, and -- unusually -- looks at this classic story from a parent's point of view.

I also highly recommend Midori Snyder's web article on the history of Handless & Armless Maiden folk tales, if you haven't read it already. At the end of the piece you'll find links to other poems that use the Handless Maiden motif.

The paintings above are "The Handless Maiden" and "Communion" by Jeanie Tomanek, one of my very favorite contemporary painters. You can see more of her exquisite work on her website and in the Endicott gallery.

Two quick recommendations...


1.  Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins has posted a fabulous new series of mythic maquettes (pictured above) among the other treasures on his website. And there's an in-depth interview with Clive on the Zoe in Wonderland blog. (With thanks to Midori Snyder for the link.)

2. Canadian author Charles de Lint discusses urban fantasy on the Publisher's Weekly website. (With thanks to Ellen Kushner for the link).

Autumn in Devon

Autumn in Devon

So very beautiful this time of year. Above: a picture taken from the slope of our back yard, looking over the rooftops to the hills beyond, where the bracken has turned from green to rust. Below: more autumn color. All three photos were snapped very early this morning, which is my favorite time of day - that quiet hour shared only with the birds and Tilly before heading off to my office and my work....

Here's a Quote for the Day, from Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved and other children's classics. It comes from Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children, which I highly recommend:

"If we marvel at the artist who has written a great book, we must marvel more at those people whose lives are works of art and who don't even know it, who wouldn't believe it if they were told. However hard work good writing may be, it is easier than good living."  

Autumn color Devon

More on "life in Devon" can be found on the blogs of two other artists in the neighborhood, Rima Staines and Danielle Barlow -- both of whom know a thing or two about creating lives that are works of art.       

Thursday's Song

The song I'd like to share with you this week is "Alas I Cannot Swim" by singer/songwriter Laura Marling. Marling hails from Hampshire, England and was just 18 when the video above was recorded. (And doesn't that fiddler look like he just strolled out of a Midori Snyder or Emma Bull story?) Marling's influences seem to range from Joni Mitchell to Johnny Cash, from Tori Amos to traditional bluegrass. Formerly a member of Noah and the Whale, her first solo album came out in 2008 and was nominated for a Mercury Prize.

Other great Marling songs & videos include: "Blackberry Stone" (performed with Marcus Mumford), "My Manic and I" (the animated video version), "My Manic and I" (a haunting, stripped-down version of the song performed on the Jools Holland show), "New Romantic,"  and the utterly gorgeous "Rambling Man," in the video below. 

Fantasy and Mythical Thinking

KatherineLangrish I'll be away from home and the office for the next few days,  but before I go I want to recommend Katherine Langrish's excellent post on "The Value of Fantasy and Mythical Thinking," over on the Awfully Big Adventure blog.

"The ‘mystery of existence’ is an artefact," she writes. "We choose to ask an answerless question, and that question is at the core of our humanity. The before-and-after of life is a great darkness, and we build bonfires to keep it out, and warm ourselves and comfort ourselves. The bonfire is the bonfire of mythical thinking, of culture, stories, songs, music, poetry, religion, art. We don’t need it for our physical selves: homo heidelbergensis got on perfectly well without it: we need it for humanity’s supreme invention, the soul."

You can read the full article here.

N246864 Katherine is the author of four mythic fiction novels for young readers: Dark Angels and The Troll Trilogy, all of which I strongly recommend. Her work has been compared to Alan Garner's -- which is high praise indeed, but entirely deserved. (I'd also compare her fiction favorably to Susan Cooper's and Nancy Farmer's.) I'm particularly captivated by the author's skillful use of mythic motifs and the interplay of light and shadow in her stories -- which are page-turners to be sure, yet are also deep and complex and utterly true inside their fantasy trappings. The Troll Trilogy draws on Scandinavian myth, Dark Angels on the legends, lore and history of the border region between England and Wales. Katherine, who lives in Oxfordshire (where, as it happens, I'm having dinner with her tomorrow night) is better known on this side of the Atlantic than in America -- but I predict that's going to change in the years ahead. Don't miss these books.