There and back again

Recommended Reading

Children's Books I by Holly Farrell

I'm heading into London to visit with publishing colleagues and won't be back in the office again until Wednesday, August 20. Here are a few good articles I've found, here and there, to peruse in the meantime....

Especially recommened:

* "Ghosts in the Sunlight," a gorgeous commencement speech by Hilton Als (The New York Review of Books).

* "How Not to Write Your First Novel," a cautionary tale from the wonderful Lev Grossman (BuzzFeed Books).

* "Stories are Waves" by Michelle Nijhuis, discussing Bilbo Baggins as a girl and re-imagining classic texts (Aeon Magazine).

* An interview with novelist, critic, and mythographer Marina Warner, discussing fairy tales, feminisim, and other things (Prospect).

* "Diary: In the Day of the Postman,"  an excellent essay on letters, email, and time by Rebecca Solnit (London Review of Books).

Plus four good articles related to the subject of Solnit's essay:  Jacob Burak's "Escape from the Matrix" (Aeon Magazine), Mark Edmondson's Pay Attention! (The Hedgehog Review), Andrew Leonard's review of Dan Hoyle's one-man show,"Each and Every Thing" (Salon), and Maria Popova's lovely piece on "Staying Present and Grounded in the Age of Information Overland"  (99U).

Gardening Books by Holly Farrell

Cookbooks by Holly Farrell

Other good reads:

* Cécile Eluard, the daughter of poet Paul Eluard, discusses growing up among the Surrealists (The Guardian).

* Olivia Laing, author of To the River, discusses writers and alcohol (The Guardian).

* "Chasing Orwell's Ghost" by Matthew Bremner, text and photographs from the remote Scottish island where George Orwell finished writing 1984 (Roads & Kingdoms).

* "Virginia Woolf's Idea of Privacy"  by Joshua Rothman (The New Yorker).

* "Tove Jansson, Queen of the Moomins" by John Garth (The Daily Beast).

*  "Adriaen Coenen's Fish Book, 1580" (The Public Domain Review, via Rima Staines).

* "If a Cat Could Talk" by David Wood (Aeon Magazine).

* "Top Ten Literary Rodents" by Kate DiCamillo (The Guardian).

* "Secrets of the Stacks" by Phyllis Rose, on how libraries decide which books to keep, and which to weed out (Medium).

Children's Books II by Holly Farrell

The beautiful still life paintings here are by Toronto artist Holly Farell. Please visit her website to see more of her work.


reading suggestions...


thank you, thank you, thank you...


What amazing artwork. I've always had the greatest respect for those artists with the technical skills required to achieve such photographic realism. Incredible.

Those children's books are wonderful. You can see all the love and attention little readers give them,
like stuffed animals except they're stuffed with stories and magic.

These look like many of my bookshelves. Paperbacks give a neater look but I like the old books.

Lovely pix! I also like that kind of precise painting.

"discussing Bilbo Baggins as a girl" - does that mean when Michelle was a girl, or a transgendered Bilbo?

I just noticed the cook books. The Joy of Cooking was my first cook book, and I still have it decades
later. We had a family joke that is we didn't have anything to cook, we could just toss Joy ofCooking
into boiling water for a full meal.

Hi Terri

I loved the essays and articles you recommended for our reading knowledge and pleasure. In particular, I really enjoyed "Ghosts in The Sunlight" and "Stories as Waves". When reading Michelle Nihujuis' piece (in Aeon Magazine) on how her daughter perceived Bilbo Baggins as a girl, I felt an immediate kinship with her and her child. I liked her viewpoint concerning how stories often leave open a gap for the reader to fill in with his or her viewpoint, imaginative invention/alteration or self-identification. Several years ago, I was asked to compose a poem for a painting by French artist, Marie-France Riviere. Her piece ( Elf by Night), depicted a fairy sprite sitting among acanthus leaves looking sassy and confident, flirtatiously mischievous.

I began to think of the character of "Puck" and wondered what if the magical being were not male but female. What would Puck confess of her nature and intent in this reverse mirror, in this feminine gender. It was a fun and creative way of giving the traditional character a feminist twist.


(In a world turned upside down.)

The Playwright thought
as others have
I am a prankster,
an elfin boy

who might braid
two horse tails together
or steal household goods
along with a new bride's sanity.

But I am female,
part girl, part lace-wing moth
who rises from a candle flame
to spice dreams, deepen
the scent of fruit
and make hinges on a screen door

hum like a choral spell
enticing lovers
to come out and seize
the summer night.

Puck is rooted
in "Pulchritude"
and leaps so quickly
off the tongue

that I adore
the staccato plucking --
one syllable, one vocal string
that ignites a girdle
of stars, a galaxy
of feminine charms.
Thanks so much for the artwork and these wonderful articles/essays. Hope your trip went well.


Brilliant! This could be applied to so many characters across all of literature....What a wonderfully convoluted dimension could be added to the conflagration of Cathy and Heathcliff if Cathy was a man! Not Catherine Earnshaw, but Carl!

Hi Stuart

Indeed, that would be a creative and wonderful twist! It would make for some fascinating reading and give the old classic a burst of vibrant energy. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and share your keen and intriguing idea. I sincerely appreciate it!


This Puck poem is so charming. Dazzling!

What lovely comments to return to! Wendy, your poem is utterly charming. I love the idea of a female Puck.

I had a very interesting conversation about female Tricksters in London this past weekend with Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, and Pat Rothfuss -- discussing why they are less common in myth & folklore (and in modern fantasy literature) than male Trickster figures. As a culture, we seem to be quite uncomfortable with Trickster's sly, shifty, lusty and dangerously ambivalent nature when it's embodied in a female form.

Lucille Ball could be considered a modern female Trickster, and on stage she maintained a daffy persona to diffuse the dangerous side of the archetype, while in real life she was reputed to be a very smart, sharp business woman.

In myth, female Tricksters *did* exist in some cultures, particularly ones with strong matriarchal traditions (like the Hopi, for example, whose Coyote stories are about both male and female Coyotes), but they are not the norm.

Hi Terri

Welcome back! It seems you had a very interesting trip and I hope you are also feeling better. Thank you so much for the lovely comment on my poem and this fascinating info on the persona of the trickster. I think as you have pointed out, the feminine character in fairytales, myth, and even societal levels of acceptance, must be inclined more toward the good, the vulnerable, the beautiful. Unless they are crones or evil beings with no redeemable qualities. The "trickster" is quite different. He is illusive, an enigma that entertains and haunts, fascinates and of course, tricks and deceives. Yet, they are somewhat likeable but best attributed to the
nature of a young boy or man -according to the old tales and social norms.

Yet, like you have said and I think this is a wonderful insight, Lucille Ball was a trickster and a beloved one. Her female wiles and madcap escapades to achieve a desired aim or cover up a folly was brilliant and accepted by a worldwide audience. I don't think a male role could have carried this off.

Thank you so much again
for all this wonderful stuff!
I deeply appreciate it!

My Best

Hi Phyllis

So glad you liked my poem; and I deeply appreciate your lovely comment. Thanks so much for taking time to read it.

My Best

Oh, I forgot to say --
Those Hopi stories with the trickster as the male or female coyote sound fascinating. I want to read a few and look into them.

Again thank you

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