Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Vanity Fair and Don Juan in the Same Week



Lewis, laid up for one week in his twenties (in the 1920s) with chicken pox, read:

three volumes of Gibbon
Vanity Fair
Don Juan
The Faerie Queene
Fool Errant (by Maurice Ewlett)
Lady Rose's Daughter (by Mrs Humphrey Ward)

and rewrote the sixth canto of his own poem, Dymer.

I've been reading All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis, 1922-1927 for over ten years now, I think. It's the book that's taken me the longest to read, but not for any definite reason. Actually, it's almost more enjoyable to leave it for a few months, return and reenter that glorious world of between the wars.

Oh, to dream of all the books I would read if I had a week off... Some of my research books (medieval travels, anyone?), some of the 180 books I still have four years to get through (see bottom of the blog), and some of the new (shh! it's a secret!) books I ordered off Amazon.

What books would you reach for?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Award Day

Nappy Tolkien Reading Day!
What better way to celebrate than by passing out an award?
I received a lovely one from Tara and am now giddy (which is why I used an N in place of an H in the drop cap - look how much fun that slide looks!):

Here are the guidelines:

1. Choose five followers/commenters that 'get' you (I'm adding a sixth!)
2. Write something fake (preferably not too mean) about them
3. Link to them, and link back to this post to comment your receipt of the award

1. Jenny, who hasn't told anyone yet, but who has perfected a time travel method. You'll see, when her novel comes out!
2. All four writers at All The World's Our Page, who pretend to live on two separate continents but are really holed up together in a secret lair, plotting a takeover of the entire publishing industry.
3. Cindy, who surfs the tides on the Bay of Fundy.
4. Zan Marie, who wrote about her upcoming interview, but forgot to mention that she's got another one to do for CNN and even one with the New York Times.
5. Kait, who works on a Mississippi steamboat and talks to Mark Twain.
6. Marsha, who says she lives in London but really lives on Pluto. Could you send me some space dust?

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Does This Look Like Isabella and Ferdinand?

A sign at my local. Pub, that is.

Tolkien Reading Day

Is on Thursday!

The theme for this year is Tolkien's Seafarers, including the "Numenorean romance the Tale of Aldarion and Erendis from Unfinished Tales, the journeys and ships of the Teleri, the flight of the Noldor, and the voyages of Tuor and Earendil in The Silmarillion. In LotR the topic might include Bilbo's poem about Earendil, the story of Amroth and Nimrodel and even the journeys and adventures that take place at the mouths of the Anduin. Among the shorter poems there are Errantry, The Sea-Bell, The Happy Mariners, and The Last Ship and at a pinch Bombadil Goes Boating."

Errantry is one my favourite poems, and I once spent a few happy weeks trying to translate it into Turkish, looking up words and rereading the poem over and over. Here is one version of the poem:

There was a merry passenger,a messenger a mariner:
he built a gilded gondola
to wander in and had in her
a load of yellow oranges
and porridge for his provender;
he perfumed her with marjoram,
and cardamom and lavender.
He called the winds of Argosies,
with cargoes in to carry him,
across the rivers seventeen,
that lay between to tarry him.
He landed all in loneliness,
where stonily the pebbles on
the running river Derrilyn,
goes merrily for ever on.
He journeyed then through meadow-lands,
to shadow-land that dreary lay,
and under hill and over hill,
went roving still a weary way.
He sat and sang a melody,
his errantry a tarrying,
he begged a pretty butterfly,
that fluttered by to marry him.
She scorned him and she scoffed at him,
she laughed at him unpitying,
so long he studied wizardry,
and sigaldry and smithying.
He wove a tissue airy thin,
to snare her in; to follow her,
he made him beetle-leatherwing,
and feather wing of swallow hair.
He caught her in bewilderment,
with filament of spider-thread.
He made her soft pavilions,
of lilies and a bridal bed,
of flowers and of thistle-down,
to nestle down and rest her in,
and silken webs of filmy white,
and silver light he dressed her in.
He threaded gems and necklaces,
but recklessly she squandered them,
and fell to bitter quarrelling,
then sorrowing he wandered on,
and there he left her withering
as shivering he fled away;
with windy weather following,
on swallow-wing he sped away.
He passed the achipelagoes,
where yellow grows the marigold,
with countless silver fountains are,
and mountains are of fairy-gold.
He took to war and foraying,
a-harrying beyond the sea,
and roaming over Belmary,
and Thellamie and Fantasie.
He made a shield and morion,
of coral and of ivory.
A sword he made of emerald,
and terrible his rivalry,
with elven knights of Aerie
and Faerie, with paladins
that golden-haired, and shining-eyed
came riding by, and challenged him.
Of crystal was his habergeon,
his scabbard of chalcedony,
with silver tipped and plenilune,
his spear was hewn of ebony.
His javelins were of malachite
and stalactite - he brandished them,
and went and fought the dragon flies,
of Paradise, and vanquished them.
He battled with the Dumbledors,
the Hummerhorns, and Honeybees,
and won the Golden Honeycomb,
and running home on sunny seas,
in ship of leaves and gossamer,
with blossom for a canopy,
he sat and sang, and furbished up,
and burnished up his panoply.
He tarried for a little while,
in little isles that lonely lay,
and found their naught but blowing grass.
And so at last, the only way he took, and turned,
and coming home with honeycomb,
to memory his message came,
and errand too!
In derring-do and glamoury,
he had forgot them,
journeying and tourneying, a wanderer.
So now he must depart again,
and start again bis gondola,
for ever still a messenger a passenger, a tarrier,
a roving as a feather does,
a weather-driven mariner.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

A Snip from the WiP!

Kingdom of Castile, Spain, spring 1492:

When Rose finally drifted off to sleep, her dreams were as confused as her waking thoughts had been. She was slipping and sliding through long tunnels, something grey was moving in front of her face, she tried to grab it, but it was a cat's tail, which waved before her then disappeared, and then she was falling, wrapped in a cocoon...
Her eyes snapped open. The rain had stopped, but it was still dark outside. Or was it? As she fumbled in her skirt for her spectacles, she caught snatches of light here and there, shining through the canvas.
She put on her specs, almost dropping them in shock. There was no longer any tent around her, merely folds of canvas, ripped and torn, one length covering her face and the other wrapped so tightly that the lower half of her legs were bound together. She cried out and thrashed about, but the ground moved beneath her feet as she tried to stand, and she collapsed, sitting, onto the canvas, as it dropped away from her head and she saw what was around her.
Blazing sunshine filled a valley that, far off, seemed green and tidy, with sandstone coloured buildings clustered in the centre of colour-filled gardens. At her feet, though, the rain had done its work. The ground was soggy and brown, squelching beneath her feet as she tried once more to stand and free herself. Where were her family, and the ox and cart?
Rose glanced behind her and started to scream. “Ayuda! Help!” She cried over and over, shutting her eyes tightly against the sight before her.
A mountain rose high in the air behind her, covered in mud and upturned trees. The peak was so far above her that it was hidden by clouds. And down the length of the mountain face, for as far as she could see, a groove had been cut in the mud – the channel she had cut as her body slid down.
“Ayuda! Ayuda!” Eyes screwed shut, Rose bellowed as loudly as she could. If she tried hard enough, maybe her voice would carry up to her family. “I’m down here!” Her voice cracked at the last, hoarse with thirst.
She opened her eyes and looked around again. The first thing to do was extricate herself from the tangle of mud and canvas, before the sun climbed higher and dried up the ground. She shuddered at the thought of being wedged in, sealed into a crack in the earth, and latched onto a rock on the slope below her, pushing downward with both hands. The mud popped around her knees, then settled more firmly against her thighs as her canvas-bound legs sank further in. Fear flared inside her. “Ayuda!”

“Over there! I heard a voice!”

(I hope you can all see the same font I can: I used Tolkien font,! Here's a link to a few.)

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Off the Cuff


I was going to do another link post to showcase all the writing and book talk that's going on at the moment on All The World's Our Page, Voyages of the Artemis and Write On, but they're all there on the left of this post, a little further down.

It's time I concentrated on a writing post. I've been knee-deep in research, learning about all sorts of things like colours and painting, pilgrimages, money and currency, naming conventions, etc. Between university libraries and the internet, I've got the pre-Renaissance covered like nobody's business. Reading non-fiction can sometimes be an eye-opener for one's own writing. There's pages and pages of numbers and dates and statistics, until suddenly you come across a paragraph like "This cost 4,000 marevides. X petitioned the Crown and led a group back to Spain, on the promise that they would convert. Once in the town of X, they attempted to reclaim their land, which had been sold for 62,000 marevides. Records tell us that the house was worth 75,000 but the court had decreed..."

There's an entire story in that one paragraph and the author simply skips over it. By the end of the chapter my eyes were glazing past the numbers as I had visions in my mind's eye of a small group of dispossessed people, trekking back across mountains and flatland, presenting a letter from the Crown guaranteeing their safe passage, whenever they were stopped for questioning returning to a village they'd left only a few years before to find their homes and vineyards sold, changing their religion - these are all weighty matters. But in this book, we concentrate on the numbers... Makes for interesting reading and speculation - which is why authors are there, of course.

And in the background of all of this I've discovered some interesting truths about Rose's journey. She may even have found herself in a love triangle on the Greek isles - not something I was expecting at all! We'll see how it plays out.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Where Do You Live?

Happy World Book Day!
Happy Vivaldi's 332nd birthday!

New Fallstars songs here!
Nora Ephron's essay (from I Feel Bad About My Neck) on where she lives covers four places: New York City, her neighbourhood, her desk, the kitchen. I thought I'd treat it as a meme and talk about where I live.

Montréal, most of the time. In my head I live in Scotland, in Wales, in Turkey... NYC would be nice too. In my writing, so far I’ve lived in: an orphanage in Australia; a mountain side in British Columbia; Arnavutkoy, Turkey; Ephesus, Roman Empire; and Toledo, Spain, among others.

In my neighbourhood. It’s called Notre Dame de Grâce but no one ever says that; it’s simply NDG. Two hundred years ago it was simply forest and field. Circa one hundred years ago, when the city began spreading further west, it became a residential neighbourhood. It's a perfect location - close enough to downtown that you can walk or bike there but far enough away that it's quiet and tree lined, without being a suburb. Two of our more famous residents and former residents are Jay Baruchel and Captain Kirk (sorry, William Shatner).

Nora Ephron says she lives at her desk. I’m too antsy and transitory for that sort of thing. My house, first of all, is hardly settled, as we might up and leave town any minute. There’s no extra room for me to call a study. Even our supposed library is more of a book depository (minus three bins of books, which are at my sister’s). All that to say, I live with my purse. I call it a purse, but the actual receptacle changes nearly every week, depending on whether my back hurts or if I’m going out after work or visiting a friend’s house or... At the moment, I have my I Like Big Books tote (scroll down to the bottom of this page for a photo) which has the books I’m reading, the book I’m writing, and various research notes and Forum documents in it (like Jill’s exciting Letter From Home). Then I have a small decorative purse/bag that holds my latest knitting project – kilt hose! And finally, my actual purse, with camera, cards, etc. In a day or two I’ll probably get tired of lugging all this around, shove a notebook and my wallet into the knitting purse and carry only that. Then I’ll get tired of hefting a bag and will carry a teeny tiny clutch, forgoing the knitting but still carrying a mini notebook.

Finally, Ephron mentions the kitchen. How could I not live in the kitchen? But, I work in an office all day. I wouldn’t want to mention the office cafeteria either – I’m not there every lunch, after all. There’s always my mother’s kitchen. Or my mother-in-law’s kitchen. Leaving aside the subject of food, entirely, as significant as it is, I’d be more inclined to say I live on the sofa. It’s where I gather everything about me – my projects, hobbies, books. It’s where I play with the cats. Where my family gathers. Where I entertain friends. Where I write, daydream, doze, rest, curl up, read, knit, attempt other crafts, join forums, blog, share photos, contemplate the future...

Where do you live?

Monday, 1 March 2010

Link Happy

Happy Saint David's Day, or Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant! Are you wearing a leek or daffodil?

Also, Go Canada Go!

Have you any ideas on how to improve London, or your own city? Visit Marsha for details.

Is this a brilliant opening or what?

“To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.”
Hie thee to All the World's Our Page for a fascinating interview with author Deanna Raybourn.

A tidbit from my ongoing research: circa 1492, it took 42 days to travel overland from Rome to Constantinople.

And... edited to add that it's also the anniversary of Dr Seuss' birthday!

Anyone else have links they'd like to share?

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • Alexandria by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • Hermit Crab by Peter Porter (poem)
  • The Hidden Land by Private Irving (poem;
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • Dear Mr Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
  • My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
  • Managed by Kristen Callihan
  • beta read! (JB)
  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • The Children of Men by P. D. James
  • A Daughter's A Daughter by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • Sunlight by Margaret Rucker (poem; floating in a cocktail glass)
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  • Preface to The Hobbit, by Christopher Tolkien
  • Ilk Defa... by Beste Barki (essays)
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (essay)
  • The Moon and I by Betsy Byars
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • Rogue Warrior by Regan Walker
  • Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve
  • Black (what was this? I don't remember!)
  • Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  • Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. Awry (26 book collection)
  • beta read (Born to Run by RB)
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson (poem)
  • Android's Dream by John Scalzi
  • The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg (reread)
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin
  • Miniatures by John Scalzi
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • All or Nothing by Rose Lerner (short story)
  • Merry Christmas, Emily (board book)
  • Extra Yarn by __ and Jan Klassen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Outlandish Companion II by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outlandish Companion I, Revised by Diana Gabaldon
  • MacHinery and the Cauliflowers by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Dileas by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Gold Watch by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • betty, butter, sun by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  • The Very Cranky Bear (Scholastic)
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • see the 2016 list and statistics at
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
  • see the 2011 list at
  • see the 2010 list at
  • see the 2009 list at
  • also in 2009 at
  • see the 2008 list at
  • also in 2008 at
  • also in 2008 at