Delia Sherman & I are doing a holiday "house concert/lecture" - just think of it as coming and hanging out with us in a living room on the Upper West side, while we shoot the breeze about the way that fantasy literature and traditional folk music play nicely together and make beautiful children. Come with your own examples of books and stories that do the trick, or get ready to hear us talk - and sing! - about Ellen's World Fantasy Award-winning novel THOMAS THE RHYMER (based on a Scots Border Ballad), and Delia's multiple short stories, like "The Maid on the Shore," plus, of course, her novel THROUGH A BRAZEN MIRROR (from Martin Carthy's rendition of the ballad "The Famous Flower of Serving-Men) . . . and how Ellen stole - er, recycled one of its plotlines.
He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand,
For [love] and for valour he rode through the land.
No charger have I, and no sword by my side,
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride,
Though back into storyland giants have fled,
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.
Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
'Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed;
And let me set free with the sword of my youth,
From the castle of darkness, the power of the truth.
When a Knight Won His Spurs is a children's hymn written by Jan Struther and set to a folk melody (Stowey) and harmonised by Ralph Vaughan Williams.The hymn first appeared in Songs of Praise in 1931.
Hear it beautifully done by my new favorite British folk duo, Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker.
A wise woman I know named Ellen Kushner once said this in an interview in Locus magazine: "Now my generation, we're all hitting late-thirties to late-forties. Our concerns are different. If we stick to fantasy, what are we going to do? Traditionally, there's been the coming-of-age [novel] and the quest which is the finding of self. We're past the early stages of that. I can't wait to see what people do with the issues of middle age in fantasy. Does fantasy demand that you stay in your adolescence forever? I don't think so. Tolkien is not juvenile. It's a book about losing things you loved, which is a very middle–aged concern. Frodo's quest is a middle–aged man's quest, to lose something and to give something up, which is what you start to realize in your thirties is going to happen to you. Part of the rest of your life is learning to give things up."
I like to quote my sources, so: Thank you, Michael.
Fortunately, Mr. Swanwick wrote up his thoughts on Tolkien in a gorgeous essay for Karen Haber's Meditations on Middle Earth. I invited him to speak about them on my public radio show, Sound & Spirit, for one of the last shows I did, The Lord of the Rings - and, Lo!, someone has transcribed his words and put them up on The One Ring Forum, here!* (You can also listen to the entire 1-hour radio show - including the Swanwick interview - here.)
Oddly enough, speaking of the LOTR S&S show, I just got FB Friended by a guy in Poland with the rather elegant name of Ryszard Viajante Derdzinski who says, "Your broadcasts are famous among the Polish fans of JRR Tolkien. Thanks to you I discovered The Tolkien Ensemble and Varttina."
Wow. What goes around . . . certainly goes around! And Finnish women's neo-trad singers Värttinä can't have too many fans.
*Swanwick quote from Sound & Spirit: The Lord of the Rings:
As I see it, the confusion about kissing and hugging got started in the 17th century. The exquisite preciosity (and hypocrisy) of the Versailles courtisans - who called teeth "the furnishings of the mouth", for example - made it popular among them to describe having sex with someone as "kissing" them. It was less crude, but more ambiguous too, and it soon lost its euphemistic sense and became a word just as rude as f---. The result is that, until today, if you say that a couple is baise-ing, it means they are fucking, et point finale!
This expropriation, however, created a need for a substitute to describe the simple act of kissing someone, now that “baiser” had been irretrievably expropriated for another purpose. The solution created even more confusion - the verb "embrasser", to embrace, began to be used (or misused) instead.
The result of all this is that in current French one has to find all sorts of round-about ways of describing these simple acts. For example, to say "I want to kiss you", you can choose between "Je veux t'embrasser" or – curiously - "Je veux te donner un baiser", since the noun did not meet the same fate as the verb.
“I want to hug you” is even worse, since this gesture is not very French and, what with “embrasser” now meaning “to kiss”, has to be described in detail: "Je veux t'entourer des bras", "Je veux t'enlacer", or still "Je veux te serrer dans mes bras". Curiously again, the noun retains its original meaning – the seldom used “une embrassade” still means “an embrace”.
It's a lot simpler in English - and in Spanish with "besar", "abrazar" and "abrazo" - but that is the state to which the French mania for "la délicatesse et la discrétion" has led them and their beautiful tongue. It's one of the reasons that immigrants find it so difficult to learn French, and even leads native-born youngsters to butcher their own language and stuff it with English words. The alarming result is not just the much-decried "franglais" but a kind of pidgin which is inexorably forcing out the 17th century form of the language which we, who have laboriously learned it, still speak.
The proof that this last statement is true, whereas current English has immeasurably evolved over the last few centuries, is that the plays of Racine and Corneille are still clearly understandable to us, while those of Shakespeare are a minefield of misunderstandings that cannot be read without footnotes.
OK, behold me justabout weeping with simple joy. Did I mention that our gîte is in an old stable? (Which is why we have big plate glass window looking out onto walled garden) Owner lives on the other side, in the house that would have owned the stable. He just appeared with a jar of his wife's fig jam, and a bottle of white Minervois wine - because we said how much we'd like the red wine and the amazing celestial plum preserves he presented us with when we arrived. His Sister-in-Law, who speaks great English, just turned up to ask if we needed anything. And then he reappeared & invited us to tea in an hour. Where I bet his wife has more treats in store.... Poor Delia is trying to write her novel. I'm just looking out the window at the olive tree, the clouds scudding before the howling wind, and trying to get a grip on myself.... Maybe I'll write tonight. Or maybe I'll just suck in more happy goodness, and let it all out in a novel someday.
Here is the gîte we are renting for the week. I feel like I could stay here a month. Maybe next time?
So when I came across this, from our beloved David Almond, I was moved to post (on FB, reposted here) - a sense of continuing the conversation. David Almond was Writer in Residence when we taught at Hollins University Children's Literature this summer, and really reminded me of why I wanted to write in the first place - and galvanized & put heart into my students, as well. A little shot in the arm from him, as ever:
'I got a scholarship to go and live in a Scottish castle for a month to write. I wrote a lot of the first half of Kit's Wilderness when I was there. .... I walked through the castle one day thinking, "I can't do this. It's too hard." But then I thought, "Well, yes, you can, of course you can." And I also had this feeling that maybe the story was a bit too dark and maybe it was a bit too difficult for young readers, and I just had to say, "Well, you can write it. You have to challenge yourself to write it, and you have to trust your readers, so get back to the desk and write it."'
And also: 'I think of writing as being very similar to music. And a lot of the things that I write down, I'll write down because they sound good. I hope they have a meaning and they have help to carry the story forwards. But, I'm also interested in the sound and the voices.'
More here: http://www.teachingbooks.net/interview.c
Opening last night was his perfectly competent, rather dull son Teddy. Never mind, I thought; it's the perfect chance to think about all those thorny issues in the book you're writing. No distractions, you know?
But, no. I was just bored.
And then RT came on. He started playing, and my brain & heart cracked open like a John Donne or George Herbert poem!
I was glorying in the songs, I was thrilling to the guitar riffs - and the novel started marching through my brain, throwing off sparks - I was watching it all happen - I was seeing all the connections - and during the guitar solo on "Vincent Black Lightning," not only Delia but probably my poor neighbors heard me shout, "Yes! That's it!" followed I'm afraid a few beats (and visions) later by a chuckled, "Of course! Damn I'm good."
And then I just enjoyed the show. Because I now had the entire second half of my novel to hand.
Oh, dear, and now I want to write a long screed here about how the Power of Richard has moved in me, from the stormy cross-country drive where my friend Nick popped a cassette of Shoot out the Lights in the car stereo, and I went: Holy crap!!! This is just like that book I'm writing (Swordspoint)!!!! . . . . to the chance meeting I had with RT on the shuttle plane from NYC back to Boston where I was making Sound & Spirit . . . to last year's City Winery all-request show where kind friends saved me a seat down front . . . . .
But I must march myself and my backpack back up to Butler Library, where a long table in a quiet room awaits me, smelling of brass and old wood and many, many books, and tall windows let in the sun over 114th St. After all, I've got the second half, now!
Oh, what the hell:
It's a Sweepstakes you can enter just by Commenting there on their site.
My co-author,deliasherman, & I are just thrilled. Thanks again to all the actors who took part in this ambitious project, and to everyone at Audible, Tor.Com & SueMedia who made it happen.
The Sweepstakes runs through Sept. 1. To enter, click here.
--And don't be churlish: Tell your friends!
PEOPLE OF THE WORLD:
If you've got a minute, could you please type www.EllenKushner.com into your address bar?
You should get the glorious new website! But you may not. If that is the case, could let me know (in COMMENTS here below) what does come up? and where you're doing this from? & which browser you're using?
ETA: If you're not getting the new website, you're probably getting the PairNIC page. Which is - kinda - as it should be. My web pal explains: "DNS servers will take some time to re-direct. They all need to talk to each other and these high level changes take some time to percolate. Let's hear back from the Livejournal crowd and see what they say. If by 2:30 or so there is still some "404"s and the PairNIC page, I will call Pair and get the lowdown. They are very responsive."
ETA #2: Do please keep letting me know if you're NOT getting it! Though most people are by now, hurrah!
IF you're into the new site and you find a bad/missing link or confusing page . . . drop us a Comment & we'll get to it! Many thanks.
And thanks for all your nice comments about the new website. The designer is the fabulous Tara O'Shea!