June's Literary Blog
 

A LITERARY BLOG ABOUT BOOKS
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How they shape our lives.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hiddensee

I have one word for Gregory Maguire: Exquisite.

The author of sixteen works of fiction and one non-fiction illustrative tribute to the illustrious Maurice Sendak, Maguire is nothing less than adroit, sensitive, and, as one critic put it, idiosyncratic. You may remember him as the created of the four-volume series, The Wicked Years (Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz) whose first novel spawned a fervor in musical theatre. Well, here he is again, paralleling in the opposite direction with Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcrackerthe definitive fictionalized story behind what we’ve come to treasure as the traditional Holiday ballet, The Nutcracker.

Performed by perhaps hundreds of dancing troupes across the country, The Nutcracker, actually, is not an entity unto itself, per se, but is based upon an 1816 story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, written by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann. Set in the Stahlbaum home on Christmas Eve, Marie-Claire [aka “Klara” in the ballet] Stahlbaum’s favorite toy, a Nutcracker, comes to life, defeats the evil Mouse King in battle, and sweeps Marie away to a magical kingdom populated with dolls.

What Hoffmann didn’t relate was the prequel: How and by whom The Nutcracker was first created and thence eventually came to be under young Marie’s family tree that fateful holiday eve.

Which is exactly what Maguire does.

Hiddensee begins not with “once upon a time”, but with “once there was a boy who lived in a cabin in the deep woods.” The “once” is the early 1800s; the deep woods, the Black Forest of Bavaria. The boy lives with a woodman with a dark beard and an seemingly old women whose legs are too smooth to be that of a crone. Not their child, he is a foundling whom they are raising. One fateful day, as he is helping the man fell a tree, the boy’s axe wounds the man and carves out one of the boy’s eyes. The boy is then “killed” by the branch he is hewing… And… Well… yet another particularly puzzling set of circumstances finds the supposedly “dead” boy wandering into a small town accompanied by a keenly sharp knife whose gnome-handle is alive and a brown thrush who is the voice of reason.

The boy comes to live with Pfarrer Johannes, a Calvinist priest who, after seven years, sends young Dirk Drosselmeier – for that is what he has dubbed the young wonderer – with a message to the Bishop in Meersburg. There, Dirk meets Felix Stahlbaum and eventually finds himself in the employ of a paper maker, Herr Pfeiffer whose Persian wife… Well, like all of Maquire’s enigmatic stories, it gets delightfully complicated. With twists, turns, tells, and reveals that only a truly talented fantasy tale maker can write.

The exquisiteness of this novel – like all of Maguire’s novels – is that 
Hiddensee is three-dimensionally polysemic. What the reader originally thinks are straight-forward allegories, metaphors, and analogies carry other meanings. And there are overt innuendoes that also can be taken three ways. Like Dirk’s puzzling friendship with Fritz and his, literally, Mesmerizing fascination with Frau Pfeiffer. And like his other stories based upon faerie and fantasy tales, this one is fraught with myths, Hellenic mystery-cultism, hints and allusions to The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. All together posing a baffling question about whether one beset by the disasters and detritus of life can finally bring hope and joy into the lives of others…

Once again, “once upon a time” in Gregory Maguire’s magically lyrical and fastidiously discerning literary hand becomes nothing less than meaningful enchantment.  

Enjoy the read!

4:18 pm est          Comments

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Faerie Handbook

Do you believe in Faeries? Clap your hands if you do!”

That night, when Peter Pan first flew into the Darling’s nursery window, millions of kids sitting in front of the television did just that! Because of their unwavering innocent belief, Tinkerbelle was saved. Peter Pan went on to find the Lost Boys; rescue Wendy, Michael, and John; defeat Captain Hook; and save Neverland. Childhood has never been the same since.

Now, if you’re a true believer – or aspire to be – and want to know all there is to know about faeries, then you must have a copy of one of the most beautiful books ever to grace a bookshelf. Newly released by Harper Design, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers,
The Faerie Handbook: An Enchanting Compendium of Literature, Lore, Art, Recipes, and Projects, compiled by the editors of Faerie Magazine, is both an anthology and compilation of all things Fae. 

This wonderfully constructed book will be released this coming Tuesday, but I got so excited, I just couldn't wait until then to tell you about it.

Organized in four sections -- Flora and Fauna; Fashion & Beauty; Art & Culture; and Home, Food, & Entertaining. – this is the complete and utmost authority on Faerie fashions, architecture, legends, folklore, stories, as well as crafts and cooking. Also delineated are the many varieties of Faeries that include not only Pixies, but, among the many described, Ogres, Trolls, Gnomes, Brownies and Boggarts, Gnomes, and Dwarves. 

To say that
The Faerie Handbook is, in itself, a work of art, is an understatement. I am not one generally impressed by a book’s cover or interior design, but the moment I opened the package, I was more than enthralled. The cover is a light mauve with gold lettering. The page edges are gilded. The pages themselves, are heavy stock, and the text and fonts are, well, very-well designed.  What a joy to read interesting, no… fascinating facts and learn how to construct Faerie homes, cook their favorite foods, and learn about a realm normally kept hidden from normal folk. Especially within the pages of such a beautiful environment.

And if you’re thinking this is yet another one of those frou-frou coffee table books with all looks and no sustenance. Think again. This is a most remarkable literary endeavor by a team that are, without a doubt, experts in their field. And, with their help and handbook, you can become one, too. 

Now, the most amazing aspect is, besides the absolutely stunning illustrations, pictures, and art-work, are the stories about, of, and by Faeries. Their place in and impact on literature is mind-boggling. There is, of course, the Pixie Tinkerbell in J. M Barrie’s play, Peter Pan. But did you know that William Shakespeare has at least one type of Faerie in every one of his plays? The pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit trilogy are full of gnomes, elves, and dwarves. Glinda the Good in Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz is a Faerie Witch – a good one, of course. And then there is Sookie Stackhouse of True Blood. I could go on, but I strongly suggest you discover the wonders of the Fae World in the written word through the Handbook.

Now, whenever I want to shed the detritus of everyday adult life, I can delve and disappear into The Faerie Handbook, which now has a special place of honor on my “favorite books to dream with” shelf. The essence of beauty and the recapturing of the innocence and wonder of childhood now found in a phenomenal book that will inspire you to believe in all things fantastical… And when that happens, clap your hands and…

Enjoy the read!

 

4:25 pm est          Comments


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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
 
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Forty-Thirty 
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast

Bethlehem

Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood

 

 

Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
and 
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA
.

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,