Monday, August 31, 2009

A Good Story

Lev Grossman begins his essay in The Wall Street Journal: "A good story is a dirty secret that we all share. It's what makes guilty pleasures so pleasurable, but it's also what makes them so guilty. A juicy tale reeks of crass commercialism and cheap thrills. We crave such entertainments, but we despise them."

Grossman writes about the impact of Modernism upon plot and the guilty return of story via YA fiction and the supermarket. Coming from the fairy tale angle, I can't wait for plot to return to its proper place.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Some wild writing

A student from last year's Children's Lit. classes sent me this link about Where the Wild Things Are from The New Yorker (thank you, C!).

I long ago gave up being skeptical about derivations of classic texts - and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are is certainly a classic piece of literary and visual genius (although I like In the Night Kitchen even better). Yet, every so often, it just works - here's hoping in regard to Eoin Colfer's Hitchhiker's sequel. So I enjoyed this snippet from Dave Eggers. I've always kind of admired Eggers since he called his first novel A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genuis.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Deadlines: things not only students have

We've been grading papers. This means we've heard students complaining about writing to deadlines (and word limits, but that's another story). Do you know the worst thing? When I finished my PhD, I thought, 'there, that's the last deadline I'll ever have to deal with in my academic career.'

But no. My diary is full of deadlines. The self-imposed ones sometimes seem the worst - I can only blame myself for how horrid they are. At least I can rant at the deadlines others set in the 'what were they thinking... don't they know I have better things to do' way. More and more deadlines crowd in...

So I found some satisfaction in Stephen Fry's latest mini-blog. He quotes Douglas Adams on deadlines. I may pin that quote to my office door.

Although, I will disagree on one point. I love to write. I just hate writing to a deadline.

I also hate trying to write conclusions that are messing up my deadline.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tell me a story

"You are at one of London's chicest boutique hotels, drink in hand. Everyone is wearing glamorous nightdresses and pyjamas. A tall dark stranger enters the room and asks you to curl up on cushions on the floor. No you haven't stumbled on an upmarket sex party, this is the Bedtime Story Night at the 40 Winks hotel — a restored 1717 townhouse in the East End."

The Evening Standard has just reported on the rise of storytelling. I have the urge to go and collect my pyjamas and a pillow!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Happy Endings

There is always debate about whether children's books are too happy, too bleak, too... well, anything.

I rather like Stephen Moss's approach here to rewriting the classics to be happier.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Looking for frog princes

I have an affection for the tales of the Frog Prince, so I'm really pleased the marvelous creator of the Sur La Lune website (link on the sidebar) is now producing her own series. And one of her first books? A collection of Frog Prince tales.

If you'd like a little spoiler to the 2010 fairy tale classes I'll teaching, I'd suggest reading this version. And, of course, most of you know that Disney will be releasing its version sometime soon. It's been steeped in controversy, but the girl does get an absolutely gorgeous dress.Still, I'm not sure it'll beat Bill Willingham's Frog Prince in the Fables series. That prince really is a charmer.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fairy tale themed jewelry

Those who know me, know I enjoy scanning Today I spotted a Peter and the Wolf necklace that is simply amazing. However, I'd just bought a Coraline inspired bracelet.

One of the slightly intriguing aspects of such Etsy searches is the discovery of the vast number of Twilight themed products. Love or hate Twilight, it has certainly inspired the handmade community.

The Pig King

Sometimes, you simply find new fairy tales to love. And how can you not love anything that comes from a collection called The Facetious Nights of Straparola? Thus I found 'The Pig King'. 'The Pig King' is my current favourite tale. Just as a teaser: "One day he came home covered with mud and filth, as was his wont, and lay down on his mother's rich robe, and said in a grunting tone, 'Mother, I wish to get married.'"

And I'm putting Susan Redington Bobby's new collection of essays on order. Heidi Anne Heiner's review on is very helpful, with information such as: "
This book helps to fill the large gap--at least a little--with analysis of works by Neil Gaiman, Emma Donoghue, Jane Yolen, Pegg Kerr, Gregory Maguire, and Shannon Hale among others."

Analysis of contemporary tellers is always a must.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Still on Austen

I wonder why mash-ups with Austen have become so popular? As attested to in this article in The Independent. I don't believe it's simply the incongruity.

But it's nothing new. Terry Pratchett tells us that when he was thirteen: "I wrote a crossover short story, Jane Austen meets J.R.R. Tolkien. It was great, especially the bit where the orcs attack the rectory.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What happens when we choose our own endings?

This piece in Boing Boing about an analysis of paths and outcomes in a choose-your-own-adventure book made me wonder what would happen in the case of a similar analysis of Lost in Austen (the book, not the excellent TV series, which is brilliant if only for Amanda's "postmodern moment"). My Honours class recently looked at the book and oddly... or not... "unfavorable endings" abounded. The path of true love never did run smooth.

There is also a graphic novel of Pride and Prejudice due out. And word out on the street, a graphic novel version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Something you couldn't do with an e-book

With an e-book, you couldn't make a handbag - see these great handbags on Etsy. One of the joys of the physical book is the creativity that comes into re-using the book. Who said books are only for reading? You can hide many things in them, as another Etsy site shows us. Of course, there is also the pang of remorse related to such operations upon a book. However, spoonfulofchocolate assures us: "No pages are harmed during the purse making process.. I take gently used books and only use the covers. I then take the sleeve and wrap it back on to the fully in-tact book and donate it to a Refugee Center here in Arizona called the IRC."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lizzie fights zombies, Darcy's a vampire...

Pride and Prejudice may never be the same. First we had Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Now... Mr Darcy, Vampyre.

Since most vampires in popular culture are wealthy and aristocratic, the latter makes much sense.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why the Internet isn't an intellectual vacuum

Often, academics find themselves in discussions about the media and new technologies and how all these gadgets and gizmos and things like the WWW have a negative impact on our intellectual lives.

I don't agree.

In just the last few days, I read about 18th century whore biographies on Jezebel, after having seen an excellent paper on Con Phillips by Caroline Breashears at the "Limits of the Book" conference in Brisbane (look Con Phillips up - it's worth it), and on Boing Boing, a piece about the Fortsas Hoax of 1840. There's been much more. There is a fair share of awful material online, but there's also a lively intellectual engagement with the past, present and future. The internet is as good as the people who supply it with material - and there's some really good people supplying it.