Liege and Lief

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Sep 182010
 
Liege and Lief

It may be heresy to say that Sandy Denny did not have a beautiful voice. Of course she did; but the qualities that we are predisposed to attribute to a beautiful voice, especially a female voice–softness, gentleness, vulnerability–were not inherent in her curious timbre. Reserve was the key to her power, insofar as it can be reduced to a formula. She could indeed raise her voice: if one had heard her loud, strange alto at full strength, one never again quite believed in her delicacy. But she was as far from melodrama as the infamous schoolmarm who never raises her voice because she never has to.

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Green Witch

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Jun 212010
 
Green Witch

Part coming of age story and part quest tale, Hoffman’s narrative exhibits the classic fairy tale amalgamation of harsh reality, fragile hope, courage, perseverance and the triumphant possibility of happily ever after. This slim volume is structured in sections and each segment resonates with its own particular charm. More magical realism than fantasy, Green Witch charts the path upon which lives are rebuilt and love is rediscovered.

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 Posted by at 12:17 pm

James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon

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May 182010
 
James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon

In 1967, fresh from finishing her doctorate, Alice Hastings Bradley Davey Sheldon found a new hobby and a new identity. She persisted for years in the fiction that she decided to call herself “James Tiptree, Jr.” because she would never be taken seriously as a research scientist if anyone knew she wrote science fiction. She might have appealed to the genre’s distinguished history in world literature, particularly that which dealt with the themes of love and death. But while science fiction writers and fans are justified in wanting our voices to be taken seriously, kicking against the prevalent stereotype of the genre as being concerned with “talking squids in space,” in Tiptree’s case the talking squids and chain-mail bikinis are entirely apropos.

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 Posted by at 2:48 pm

Neverland: J.M. Barrie, The Du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter Pan

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May 182010
 
Neverland: J.M. Barrie, The Du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter Pan

Fairies are found the world over, but the fairy folk we think of when we hear the word are quintessentially British. Several things are true of the British fairies in particular, and are worth remembering in case one should happen to encounter them. The fairies have trouble reproducing: their greatest delight is in stealing human children to replace their dwindling stock, and switching the stolen child with one of their own, a “changeling” born old who will never grow. They are amusing, often charming, but they do not have human souls and cannot feel affection as humans do; and they are dangerous if crossed.

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 Posted by at 2:48 pm

The Fairy Tale Tarot

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May 182010
 
The Fairy Tale Tarot

The Fairy Tale Tarot by Lisa Hunt comes neatly packaged with the book Once Upon a Time in which Hunt briefly touches on the history of the fairy tale before expansively describing the major and minor arcana, each of which comes with a fairy tale of its own. Tarot such as this aren’t so much divinatory tools as they are guideposts through the psyche, and I can think of few things better to guide us than the stories with which many of us grew up.

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 Posted by at 2:48 pm

Fairy Tales

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May 182010
 
Fairy Tales

Terry Jones’ Fairy Tales leapt out at me from the shelf of a used book shop in one of those happy moments when two of your beloved worlds collide. The stories were written for Sally Jones in the summer of 1978, according to the dedication, and even though this book was first published in 1981, it wouldn’t do to have a site devoted to fairy tales that didn’t mention this delightful and somewhat subversive collection.

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 Posted by at 10:01 am

All the Fishes Come Home to Roost

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May 182010
 
All the Fishes Come Home to Roost

From an early age she knew she would change her name, eventually choosing Rachel after Rachel Summers in The X-Men. Age seven to age thirteen, she lived in India, where her parents went to live in an ashram. Because she had to go to school, Rachel spent much of her time at a Catholic school called Holy Wounds of Jesus Christ the Savior Convent School. It was the only English-speaking school in the town of Ahmednagar. But though she walked twice every weekday under “an immense painting of an anatomically correct veiny heart, wrapped in thorns and bleeding realistically,” and although she would be so traumatized by the teachers’ punishments that in adulthood she would be asked by a combat veteran which war she’d fought in, the stifling religious miasma in which Rachel spent her childhood was mainly that of the ashram.

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Impossible

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Feb 262010
 
Impossible

At 17, Lucy Scarborough is about to face the most challenging year of her life. Her certifiably crazy biological mother is invading the peaceful family life long established by her adoptive parents. Her prom turns into a nightmare beyond your wildest imaginings. Lucy discovers that she is pregnant, and to make matters even worse, her biological mother’s cryptic ravings might actually point to the cause: a curse that has been laid upon each generation of Scarborough women, passed along through the years from mother to daughter.

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 Posted by at 3:04 pm
Feb 172010
 
Brother and Sister

I remember, perhaps ten years ago, first reading Terri Windling‘s “Brother and Sister.” I was in college, on my own for the first time and, in several private ways, learning what it was to survive. It was the afternoon, golden light sliding through autumn trees and filtering through an unclothed window. I was thumbing through one of my favorite sites, The Endicott Studio, and there it was. Now, today, I discovered Lisa Stock’s short film adaptation of the original German fairy tale and Terri Windling’s poem.

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Jan 282010
 
The Girl With Glass Feet

St. Hauda’s Land is a remote island tucked away behind commercial whaling ships, where poverty has led to an exodus of its traditional sea-faring families. Midas has lived there for all of his life and prefers his solitude; he is happiest when he is capturing light from behind the lens of a camera. Ida is a tourist who has returned to the island in search of a stranger—the only person who might understand what is happening to her. When they meet, there is something about Ida that immediately catches Midas’ eye. Her oversized boots aren’t the only thing odd about her, but it is some time before Midas discovers what makes her unlike other girls. Ida has feet that are turning to glass, and it seems as though the rest of her won’t be long to follow.

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 Posted by at 10:38 am

Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story

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Jan 212010
 
Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story

It was a beautiful, lazy afternoon. The sun was shining, the bees were zipping from flower to flower and I was preparing to lie back on a lounge chair with Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon. It was one of those days that couldn’t possibly get any better and then, as I opened the book, into my lap fell two glass slippers as though my fairy godmother had appeared. Okay, I’ll admit they were actually temporary tattoos that had been tucked into the front cover by a mischievous author, but at that moment, a spell was cast.

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 Posted by at 2:05 pm

Lover of Unreason

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Jan 142010
 
Lover of Unreason

In 1962, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes were looking for a tenant. Their second child had arrived and made their London flat too cramped for them to stay the full three years of their lease. They ended up subletting the flat to a very handsome, very self-centered young woman named Assia Wevill. She was a German Jew who had spent much of her life in Israel. She was married to a Canadian poet named David Wevill, only her third husband in fifteen years. She was candid about her history of marriages and affairs, wanderings on four continents, fondness for pleasure and disdain for convention. Even so, she came across as something more than a queen bee.

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 Posted by at 2:57 pm

Transformations

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Jan 142010
 
Transformations

It is the early 1970s in an Eastern city. A woman with thick black hair, craggy features, and wide Caribbean-blue eyes is declaiming poetry in a voice that blends Piaf and Dietrich. In the background a rock group plays. The young woman’s behavior is at times seductive, at times naïve and charming, at times very disturbing; her moods go from spitting rage to humility and back at the drop of a hat. When she smiles, the sun comes up.

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 Posted by at 2:56 pm

Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath

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Jan 142010
 
Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath

They were poised to become the royal couple of English poetry, Ted Hughes and the handsome young Massachusetts girl he had married: Sylvia Plath, a brilliant poet in her own right. She had already published one book, The Colossus and Other Poems, before she turned thirty. Hughes was celebrated for several. In a moment of clairvoyance Plath had confided to her diary that she would be “The Poetess of America (as Ted will be The Poet of England and her dominions).”

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 Posted by at 2:56 pm

Ballad

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Jan 142010
 
Ballad

Fairies are tricksy creatures. Their connection to the human world is tentative and their interactions are rarely reciprocal or free from barely disguised whimsy. They are often drawn to beauty and those who shape it — poets, painters, dreamers and, of course, those who compose otherworldly music. But is gaining their attention always a good thing?

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 Posted by at 2:56 pm