Friday bletherie

I’ll end the week as I began: by letting you all know that Wise Fools, the new issue of Unsettling Wonder, is newly available to buy. I’m going to keep flogging this one because I love it, and I think its hilarious and sad and beautiful. Listen!

Not in my time, not in your time, nor yet in your grandfather’s time–but in someone’s time, surely–there was and there was not, a boy.

That’s the opening of Austin Hackney’s story ‘The Tale of Tom Fool’, a story that makes me laugh and cry and wonder. It gets better—it’s unexpected and sweet and haunting. And the whole issue’s this good.

The print editions are beautiful even though I designed them, and there are beautiful e-editions designed by Erzebet Yellowboy, and it’s full of beautiful illustrations and beautiful stories and—and you need a copy because you can always have more beauty in your life. Plus it’s got sad fox by Laura Anderson in:


Also, on a similar note I’ve got a fairly momentous announcement related to Paradoxes soon, so you can look forward to that appearing early next week. Which gives you plenty of time to go buy Wise Fools. Do yourself a favour and don’t miss this one.

mendicant memorial

It’s six years this week since I first arrived in the UK. On reflection, it was kind of like an awkward first date, where you think you’re all into each other but then why did you tell that story about the cat, and it’s exhilarating but a bit frightening, really. I was with a tour group—we were the stereotype: loud Americans rushing around too fast in a very large bus—and it wasn’t a happy time, to be honest. Except for those moments when, I could clandestinely wander away from the main group and just roam around whatever village or city I found myself in.

That was when I learned how easy it is to get lost anywhere in Britain. And that was when I found myself in coat and tie, wandering through a cobbled church square beside the river. A mum and a wee girl were standing on the medieval bridge—the kind that’s been charmingly marred with Victorian iron railings—throwing bread to the ducks and pigeons. And I thought, suddenly and unexpectedly, that I had been born for Europe.

Sometimes I envy folks who have rooted comfortably and long to a certain place—folks like my hog-farmer friends in East Kentucky, whose family have been raising hogs on that land for two hundred years. And I grew up with a sense of rootedness, certainly—sixteen years in the same house. But even then I felt sense of displacement, which of course makes more sense now: my American roots are pure Chicago, and living in rural Wisconsin would be somewhat equivalent of moving from Scotland to France. Another country, another culture. Another world, maybe.

I think there is a literature of displacement—something that emerges from liminal places in cultures. I don’t mean immigrant or minority literature: those involve whole cultural groups, usually, while what I’m thinking of is particular to the individual. I have a colleague who actually has a fully-articulated theory about this, and I might get him to guest post here at some point. But the basic idea is that we turn to literature for different reasons, and write in a somewhat different way, when, in the words of a French travel-writer whose name I forget, we embrace life as ‘a stranger, a passer-by, a man without place or fire.’

in memoriam

The emails have been arriving with depressing regularity. Often the subject line is only the name of a friend. With dread I know what the message will contain: That person has died. In recent weeks there have been seven such losses. Three came in a 10-day period, and I fell into sadness.

–Roger Ebert, ‘ I remember you’

This isn’t a normal re-entry into the world of regular blogging. Oh, sure, you’ve noticed and I’ve noticed that I haven’t been here that much, that I’ve been waltzing off starting other blogs and—that greatest of blogging excuses—writing The Book (it’s true). And I could give the usual patter of apologies and promises and life-does-get-in-the-way-of-the-internet-strange-to-say speeches. But today I just want to start writing for you again, and talking with you again, and there’s a reason.

Roger Ebert died today. It was the day after he said he was going to start back—which, for Ebert, meant reviewing a lot of movies and working on a few more books. Yesterday, when begged our leave  to take  ‘a leave of presence’ from his work, he wrote with the vitality and enthusiasm of a far younger, far more well man. Today he’s gone to his reward, and the world has lost a powerful force for good.

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unsettling wonder

Rather an exciting day for me, I must say. Forget, for a moment, the sleet and hail and wind and general wintry wretchedness of the otherwise lovely view beyond my window. Forget, too, the Damoclean spate of deadlines unravelling above my head. Today is the official release date for Unsettling Wonder, Vol. 1, Issue 1 (Winter 2013), Wonder Voyages.

I write all about it at this link, and you can buy it at this other link. I love this little mag, and I’m excited at the direction it already seems to be charting for itself.

And here’s acknowledgments: Special shout out to my fantastic co-editors: Cayt Addison, Defne Cizakca, Katherine Langrish (friend of this blog), Jenna St. Hilaire (my worthy blogaletic partner), and Josh Richards. They’ve made this project what it is. And tremendous  thanks to Erzebet YellowBoy Carr, for being willing to publish such a bizarre and ambitious project, and to her husband, Dis, for the timely gift of remarkable software.

This is just the start, really: we’ve a lot more of equally audacious projects to come. Here’s a general announcement, which you are welcome to copy and paste and distribute where you jolly well like. Or follow us on Facebook or Twitter or one of those places. Myself, I’m off to celebrate in true British style: with a nice cup of tea.

We are pleased to announce that the inaugural issue of Unsettling Wonder, a new literary journal of folklore studies, is now available for purchase: Centered around the theme of ‘Wonder Voyages’, the issue includes old and new tales of aimless wanderings, magical journeys, told in stories, essays, poetry, and image. The real purpose of these tales are what happens along the way. They are filled with bizarre islands and stranger people, incomprehensible dangers and unutterable beauty. The voyagers become legends of their own. Some find their destination. Some never do. Not all of them return, or wish to. Featuring works by Claire Massey, Johnny Wink, Patrick Weck, Katherine Langrish, and Jennifer Povey. Cover artwork by Laura Anderson. Available in print and digital editions. (Papaveria Press, 48 pp, £5.00/2.50). For inquiries please contact info[at]unsettlingwonder[dot]om.

blind cat dreams

in blogalectic with Masha and Jenna

The girl dreams she is dangerously ill. Suddenly birds come out of her skin and cover her completely. […] Swarms of gnats obscure the sun, the moon, and all the stars except one. That one star falls upon the dreamer.

~ C.G. Jung

τε καὶ ὥρμησε φύεσθαι ἀπὸ τῆς ῥίζης
ὁ τοῦ πτεροῦ καυλὸς ὑπὸ πᾶν τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς εἶδος:
πᾶσα γὰρ ἦν τὸ πάλαι πτερωτή

Phaedrus §251

One can imagine stories without rational cohesion and yet filled with associations, like dreams; and poems that are merely lovely sounding, full of beautiful words, but also without rational sense and connections—with, at the most, individual verses which are intelligible, like fragments of the most varied things.

Novalis (MacDonald’s translation)