Africa is My Home: Interview with Deborah Kalb

I had fun doing an interview with Deborah Kalb and it is now on her blog here.

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Laurie Anderson and Rebecca Stead Together With Others at the Met?

SPARK: A New Conversation Series
Laurie Anderson,
performance artist
Melanie Holcomb, curator in the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, MMA
Rebecca Stead, author
SeungJung Kim,art historian, professor at the University of Toronto

We think we can measure time only in minutes and seconds, but artists and musicians can also play with, stretch, and compress it. Our awareness of the expanse of human time is shattered by our understanding of geologic time and the age of the stars. In this program, our sense of time is expanded and upended, as Met curator Melanie Holcomb describes how a whole day is compressed into a few square feet in a medieval frieze; astrophysicist-turned-art historian SeungJung Kim explores the double Greek notions of chronos and kairos; writer Rebecca Stead bends time in her novel When You Reach Me (2009); and performance artist Laurie Anderson meditates on time and space.

The Spark series explores vital ideas and issues through the lens of the Met’s collections. Each cabaret-style program gathers artists, thought leaders, and performers from theater, film, politics, literature, science, and pop culture to engage in wide-ranging, fresh conversations and performances. Spark is hosted by Julie Burstein, author and Peabody Award–winning creator of public radio’s Studio 360.

I don’t know about you, but this event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art next Wednesday, April 30th, looks incredibly cool to me.

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More About Endings, Ambiguous and Others

Endings have always been my Everest. Or, really, if writing a novel is like climbing Everest, then my tendency is to get within eyeshot of the summit and say, “Well, that’s far enough.” In the seventh grade my English teacher had only one rule: Our stories couldn’t end with it all turning out to be a dream. Thanks to me, this rule soon expanded to include everyone dying in a bus crash, an asteroid hitting Earth, etc., etc.

I just finished reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to my 4th graders. When we got to the last few pages  I warned them to be irritated. Why? Because of the horrible ending. Not only does it all turn out to be a dream, but Carroll blathers on in the most twee and sentimental way. So, I’m with that 7th grade English teacher — no ending-with-a-dream.

But that 7th grade teacher’s admonition is only a tiny piece of Kristopher Jasma’s thoughtful NYTimes essay, “The End, or Something.” Jasma looks at many aspects of the struggle and importance of endings including those ambiguous ones and how and what is satisfying and necessary both for the writer and the reader.

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Star Wars, Spiderwick, Wonder, A Tale Dark and Grimm, and Orgami Yoda Together?

Yes indeed. Adam Gidwitz had for some time been hinting to me about a big secret project. At one point I thought it was a video game…but now I have learned  just what it is and it is indeed big.  And wild. Adam and three other big name children’s book writers will be writing brand new retellings (Adam is indeed perfect for that!) tied to the first three Star Wars movies.  They are indeed arguably as awesome as those grim Grimm fairy tales. Joining Adam are Wonder‘s R. J. Palacio, Orgami Yoda‘s Tom Angleberger, and Spiderwick‘s Tony DiTerlizzi.  From PW:

The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight, a picture book encompassing all three films, written by DiTerlizzi and illustrated with Ralph McQuarrie concept art, will kick off the program in October. It will be followed by retellings of Star Wars: A New Hope by Palacio in April 2015, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by Gidwitz in July 2015, and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi by Angleberger in October 2015; all three will be illustrated by Iain McCaig. McCaig and the late McQuarrie are well known for their work as Star Wars concept artists.

Wild and wonderful. Congratulations to all those cool authors. 

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Albert Marrin’s A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery

I confess, until recently what I knew about John Brown was pretty much limited to a vague awareness of his foolhardy attack on Harper’s Ferry. Then, last summer, I read this review of James McBride’s historical novel about Brown, Good Lord Bird,  listened to it, thought it terrific, and  was very pleased when it won the National Book Award. And so, having Brown much more on my radar, when I first saw Albert Marrin’s nonfiction book A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery I was eager to read it. Having now done so I can say without reservations that it is excellent.

The excellently-titled A Volcano Beneath Snow is a book that is much more than a biography or history of one man. Rather, it is a book about slavery (both in history and in the United States), about politics, about war, about Lincoln, about religion, about history, about belief, and about terrorism. By placing Brown deeply within the context of his time, Marrin gives a unique and fascinating perspective on familiar and less familiar aspects of actions, people, and the ideas that led up to the Civil War. His portraits of Brown, Lincoln, and many other players are highly complicated, fascinating,  and thought-provoking. While the concepts in play are not always simple, Marrin writes about them clearly and elegantly, trusting in the intelligence of his young readers. This is a book that makes you think. Hard.

Highly recommended.

 

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Ah, those fairies, they do seem to like to be photographed

cf11-1

I’ve long been besotted with the story of the Cottingley fairies (those that two little girls supposedly photographed quite a while ago, one of which is above).  So, of course, was amused to see the most recent photographs of those little beings.  This time it is the Rossendale fairies as photographed by adult college lecturer John Hyatt. (One of his photographs is below).

o-FAIRIES-3-900

 

While I don’t think I’m particularly fluffy-headed about fairies and such, I admit this lacks the magic of the Cottingley story. That one appeals to me due those two young girls’ imagination going hogwild.  This business by an adult is seems something else entirely.  (That said, I love to think what Elsie and Frances could have done with theirs using today’s technology!)

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26 Characters at Oxford’s Story Museum

In Oxford, England, there is a unique museum blending art, performance, telling, viewing, and pretty much everything else story-related in imaginative ways. This is the Story Museum. Here’s a bit from my post  reporting my visit there a couple of years ago:

Yesterday, Philip Pullman who is, unsurprisingly, one of their patrons took me to the museum where we got a fascinating tour with co-director Kim Pickin.  The physical space is a remarkable warren of rooms of all sizes with a fascinating history and, if they do even a smidgen of what they dream to do, it will be extraordinary. They’ve got some massive Alice cut-outs peering out of the windows, a dinosaur, some scary vaults (part of the space used to be the post office and there are rumors that gold bullion was stored there at one point), some very old printing presses, and lots of energy .

I’ve followed  them on twitter ever since and have often wished I could go visit their unique exhibits.  The one that just opened, 26 Characters, looks absolutely wonderful. They invited a number of familiar children’s book creators such as Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett  to “transform themselves into the characters they most loved as children.”  The resulting exhibit of photographs by Cambridge Jones is  “a gallery of rogues and rascals, wizards, witches and wild things, which unfolds through the Story Museum’s atmospheric and unfinished buildings.”

Highlights:

- see portraits hung in interactive themed spaces

- Listen to story extracts recorded by award-winning actors Olivia Colman and Christopher Eccleston

- Hear new stories specially created by Jamila Gavin, Geraldine McCaughrean, Kevin Crossley-Holland and Alex Kanefsky

- Listen to authors talking about their choice of hero and why they love stories (you can also hear them online here)

- Browse through everybody’s books and discover more in our comfortable library

- Dress up and have your photo taken for our digital gallery

- Make friends with our talking throne

For a taste, here’s Neil Gaiman as a Badger. Sure wish I could go!

Neil-Gaiman-as-Badger

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