* Thedora Goss has posted some interesting thoughts "Selchie Women" on her writing blog.
"It occurred to me that there have always been selkie women," Dora writes, "women who did not seem to belong to this world, because they did not fit into prevailing notions of what women were supposed to be. And if you did not fit into those notions, in some sense you weren’t a woman. Weren’t even quite human. The magical animal woman is, or can be, a metaphor for those sorts of women."
* George Monbiot has published a fascinating article on "John Clare, poet of the environmental crisis 200 years ago" in The Guardian.
"His father was a casual farm labourer," writes Monbiot, "his family never more than a few days' wages from the poorhouse. Clare himself, from early childhood, scraped a living in the fields. He was schooled capriciously, and only until the age of 12, but from his first bare contact fell wildly in love with the written word. His early poems are remarkable not only for the way in which everything he sees flares into life, but also for his ability to pour his mingled thoughts and observations on to the page as they occur, allowing you, as perhaps no other poet has done, to watch the world from inside his head. Read The Nightingale's Nest, one of the finest poems in the English language, and you will see what I mean."
* Carlo Rotella discusses "The Art of Storytelling" in The European, coming at the subject from the point of view of a nonfiction writer and academic.
"I’m allergic to abstraction," Rotella says. "Especially in my first two books, I was telling the story of the transformation of urban America, especially in the so-called 'rust belt,' and of the decline of the industrial city and the rise of post-industrialism. But I could only tell it as a series of locally inflected stories about particular characters at particular moments in particular landscapes. They are almost always creative characters: Writers, or musicians. These characters are often filled with some urge, and I am basically writing the biography of that urge. How does the urge to play the guitar find expression in certain styles, which are attached to certain institutions, and then to the city?"
* Michael Cunningham has published a fascinating "Letter from the Pulitzer Fiction Jury: What Really Happened This Year" in The New Yorker. (It turns out that the jurors were as surprised as everyone else when no book won the prize this year.)
"Utter objectivity...is not only impossible when judging literature, it’s not exactly desirable," he notes. "Fiction involves trace elements of magic; it works for reasons we can explain and also for reasons we can’t. If novels or short-story collections could be weighed strictly in terms of their components (fully developed characters, check; original voice, check; solidly crafted structure, check; serious theme, check) they might satisfy, but they would fail to enchant. A great work of fiction involves a certain frisson that occurs when its various components cohere and then ignite."
Image above: An illustration for Shakespeare's The Tempest by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953)