Saturday, April 21, 2012

On the Shelf

We are entering the Season of Driving and Sitting, also known as "little league" and "swim team".  The upside is my reading time gets a huge boost and all that time in the car means I can catch up on podcasts and audio plays. This is what's keeping me company these days:


On the Back Burner:  The Odyssey.  Since this is a year-long reading project this will be hanging around for a while

On the Shelf: Mrs. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.   I just picked this up yesterday and can't wait to delve into it's creepy, photograph-laden pages.  I can't resist digging through piles of old black and white photos at flea markets and antique shops so I have high hopes for a novel that incorporates the creepiest of found images.  

On the Nook:  Apex Magazine.  I'll be honest and admit that I initially subscribed to this magazine as a show of support to new editor Lynne Thomas but I quickly learned that it was a treasure trove of short, amazing bits of fiction and thought-provoking essays. Perfect for between inning reading.

On the iPhone:  The Witch From The Well.  This audio play from Big Finish is the second in a trilogy featuring Doctor Who's Eighth Doctor and Mary Shelley.  Yes, that Mary Shelley.  If you've never listened to an audio play I can't recommend them enough.  With a full cast of actors and high production values it engages me in ways that audio books can't.

Of course this makes me look like a person who is absolutely terrified of downtime but that's a post for another day. ;-)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cool things for Friday

1.  I was interviewed with Lynne M. Thomas at Doctor Her on projects current and past.  This is one of my favorite new websites and if you're interested in pop culture and feminism I can't recommend it enough.

2.  Another favorite - the The History Chicks podcast - has a new espisode discussing Margaret "Molly" Brown.  If everything you know about "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" is via Debbie Reynolds run to this podcast and be amazed at this spirited philanthropist who got things done with style and panache. Hosts Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider never fail to amuse and educate and their shownotes are an amazing resource.

3.  One of my favorite publishers, Persephone Books, has a beautiful blog that is a catch all for art, history and the lives of women.  It's the sort of thing you dip into when you feel your spirits flagging.  Thank you Persephone Books for rescuing and reclaiming so many women writers!  Now, if they'd only open a shop in the U.S......

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Power of Story

In February of this year I had “A Perfect Moment”.  I was at the The Getty Villa in Los Angeles, eating a plate of figs and cheese while drinking a glass of chardonnay.  The breeze was soft, the company excellent and the view sublime.  All of my senses were fulfilled.  But what pushed the day to “perfect” status was the opportunity to see a tiny sliver of papyrus, a bit over 2,000 years old, which held a fragment of Homer’s The Odyssey.  See, I’d just undertaken a year-long read-along of The Odyssey and while I may be a book or two behind at this point, it’s been a fabulous experience.  I don’t think I’ve done a close reading of a text since college so to be forced to slow down, to give the words time to sink into my bones and let the story that has been such a bedrock of western literary experiences wash over me has been a luxury. 

It certainly hasn’t hurt that I chose to read  Robert Fagles' translation, selected because it purported to give us a bit more domestic detail along with all the clashing armor.  While there has been some criticism of Fagles’ trading authenticity for readability, there is no denying the language is sensuous and beautiful.

So, what is it about that tiny sliver of parchment that still transfixes us centuries later?  Nothing really.  Despite its age and rarity it’s just the medium for the real treasure: the story.  And what a story – it’s been told and retold so often that it’s become a part of us. Over the years we’ve picked it apart, rebuilt it and, at times, turned it into something new.  It is a story that speaks to our soul.

That is what a good story does.  

Of course The Odyssey is “literature” and given the reverence and awe that “literature” deems its due.  But the story started out as merely a cracking good tale filled with adventure, loss and love, told by storytellers to captivated audiences. It was the Lost or Downton Abbey or Doctor Who of its time.   It didn’t become “literature” until much later.  

I guess the lesson to be learned from that tiny slip of papyrus is that the medium is irrelevant.  A good story is a good story whether it is delivered to us via paper, film or the internet.  It has a power over us that cannot be contained by its delivery system and whose merits are earned by the emotions it generates.

And that is, pretty much, the definition of perfect.

P.S. If you really want a perfect example of the power of story, check out Chicks Dig Comics edited by my fabulous Whedonistas co-editor Lynne M. Thomas and Sigrid Ellis.  These amazing essays by women artists and writers will challenge you to re-examine the powerful story-telling medium of comics.