Friday, October 31, 2014

Witch Week Day One: Fire and Hemlock (Guest Post)

US hardcover, Greenwillow
To kick off Witch Week, we're taking a look at Fire and Hemlock (1984), a book in which today's date plays a very important role. It begins (after a brief prologue) when ten-year-old Polly accidentally stumbles into an ominous Halloween funeral at a nearby manor, and makes a life-changing connection to a man named Tom Lynn; and it ends on the same date nine years later, after Polly has learned much more about Tom and the sinister significance of that event. Not a retelling, but a sort of variation on themes introduced in the ballads of “Tam Lin” and “Thomas the Rhymer,” it brilliantly but unobtrusively mines the depths of folklore and myth while telling a very modern story, one in which the act of storytelling itself is central.

I believe Fire and Hemlock to be Diana Wynne Jones's masterpiece -- and Ana, who shares my high opinion of it, is here today to share her story about how she first encountered this marvelous and multi-faceted book. Ana is a UK-based reader and blogger. She works for a large public library system and has a particular interest in reader's development work with young people. She writes about fantasy, children’s literature, non-fiction, cult TV and more at Things Mean a Lot and also contributes to Lady Business. Welcome, Ana!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Witch Week 2014: Preview and Master Post

Diana Wynne Jones blog event

...Witch Week, when there is so much magic around in the world that all sorts of peculiar things happen... -- Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

Welcome to Witch Week at the Emerald City Book Review, where for the first time I'm hosting what I hope will become an annual event celebrating our favorite fantasy books and authors. This year, we're focusing on one of the best fantasy authors of all time, who is also the originator (as far as I know) of the term "Witch Week" -- British writer Diana Wynne Jones. What will be happening?

Guest Posts: From October 31 through November 4, there will be a different guest blogger each day commenting on some favorite DWJ titles. You won't want to miss any of these!

Readalong: On November 5, bring your thoughts about the book Witch Week to our readalong post, or just visit to see what other readers have to say.

author blog event Wikimedia
Diana Wynne Jones
Giveaway: From November 1 through 5, in sync with the Literary Blog Hop, enter a giveaway for a copy of artist Emma Jane Falconer's unique DWJ zine, a $10 Powell's gift certificate, and (US/Canada only) the new Tor edition of Deep Secret. You'll get extra points for leaving a comment on any of the announcement posts, including this one!

Link up your own posts: Use the linky below, or just leave a comment or send me an email at withawhy99 [at] gmail [dot] com to let me know of any related posts you've done on your own blog at any time (does not have to be from this week). I'll do a roundup on the final day of the week, November 6.

However you choose to participate, I hope you enjoy Witch Week! This is a new venture for me, so your comments and suggestions are much appreciated. Happy reading!
Lory

Friday, October 24, 2014

Witch Week starts in one week!



One week from today, I'll be hosting Witch Week, a celebration of fantasy fiction and of one of my favorite authors, Diana Wynne Jones. If you haven't already, please check out the announcement post and consider signing up. Then come back to ECBR on October 30 for a preview, giveaway details, and more before the fun really starts on Halloween.

The six books we'll be focusing on during the week
I'm busy getting everything in place for next week, but in the meantime here are links to my own earlier posts about DWJ and just a few of her marvelous books:
And here are some of my favorite reviews and other musings from the lovely bloggers who will be contributing guest posts next week:
Are you joining us? What are you looking forward to during the week?

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Traveller in Time: Hild

Nicola Griffith, Hild (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013)


Hilda historical Whitby fiction
Hild is not a novel for everyone. If you are put off by the thought of a dense, slow-moving narrative largely preoccupied with political machinations in a remote period of British history, populated by a large cast of characters whose every other name seems to begin with Os- or Aeth- or Ed-, you might want to look elsewhere. But readers for whom this sounds like an intriguing challenge rather than a form of literary torture will be rewarded by a rich and immersive experience of that alien land, the past, and by the chance to encounter an unforgettable central character.

Who is Hild? She is based on a real person, the daughter of a displaced king in seventh-century Northumbria. She became known to history as Saint Hilda, founder of the important abbey of Whitby, a teacher of bishops and advisor of kings. In nearly 600 pages, the novel only deals with her early years, bringing her just over the threshold of womanhood. Only a few fragments of fact-cum-legend remain about this period of Hild's life, tiny seeds that in Griffith's imagination have blossomed into a comprehensive vision of an extraordinary girl growing up in a dangerous and revolutionary time, when petty kings fought for territory with ruthless brutality, and a strange new religion became another weapon in their wars.

Friday, October 10, 2014

My First Robertson Davies: Tempest-Tost

Robertson Davies, Tempest-Tost (1951; Penguin, 1980)


The first book you read by a favorite author has a special quality. Even if there are other books by the same author that you realize are more worthy of recognition, the joy of discovery lends your "first" a lingering glow. Sometimes, the particular circumstances of finding the book are stamped on the memory as well. I'm revisiting some of these "first reads" and giving some second (or fifth or twentieth) impressions.

Robertson Davies first novel
When I was in college, my campus bookstore had a tempting array of current fiction on the way to the textbooks. Among these were several strikingly designed Penguin paperbacks by an author named Robertson Davies. After looking at them for years I finally bought one: Davies's first novel, Tempest-Tost, about an amateur production of Shakespeare's play in a provincial Canadian town.

And how glad I was that I did! With a sure comic touch, Davies assembles his cast of characters and lets them make fools of themselves, occasionally learning something in the process, in the best Shakespearean tradition. The pompous English professor who simply must play Prospero with his own special touch; the drama club president, preoccupied with impressing her social superiors; the suddenly stage-struck mathematics teacher whose staid and comfortable life is shaken up by his venture into theatrical circles; the gloriously unconventional church organist with a passion for Henry Purcell; the young assistant director bound by painful ties to his invalid mother; all these and more entertain and divert us with their own comedy alongside the one they are preparing for the stage.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Lost in Translation: Le Grand Meaulnes

Alain-Fournier, Le Grand Meaulnes (1913; Penguin, 1966, with the 1959 translation by Frank Davison)


Alain-Fournier French novel
It's been a while since I read a novel in translation. As I read Le Grand Meaulnes, one of the most acclaimed and popular novels that came out of the past century in France, I pondered the various aspects of the writer's art, and how they can or cannot be translated from one tongue into another. There's the basic plot and character framework, the general raw materials of fiction; this element, I think, can be translated, because it can be understood independent of the language used. Then there's how these materials are worked with: how the plot is structured, how the narration works, what kinds of images are chosen, how description is balanced with plot development. This also can be translated to a certain extent.

But the third element, the actual sound-sculpture of the language, which gives color and emotional resonance to the story, is not translatable. A translator may come up with a new creation that has some parallel relationship with the original, hoping to evoke similar feelings and experiences through the second language, but they cannot ever be truly the same, because they live in a realm beyond intellectual meaning. The need to convey meaning on the first two levels hampers the translator, because it limits him or her in the words that can be chosen, and the ones that are available inevitably color the translated work in a new way. Perhaps the most honest approach would be to discard the original work altogether and try to create a new one, new in plot, structure, and diction, that approaches the essence of the original. But this is not what we call translation.