Tag Archives: books

… in gratitude to unnamed authors & soul companions …

Plenty of subjects nudged me towards a blog post during these last weeks. No gust struck a chime – the sure sign I was avoiding something. I stepped back – into gardening, watching birds, boring paperwork, reading, and posting two reviews of thought-provoking novels on Goodreads: ‘Immortality’ by Milan Kundera and ‘The Passion According to G. H.’ by Clarice Lispector 

Otherwise I managed bits of networking and endured the tragic/comic soap operas of global politics, until, finally, the avoided task fell into place – the next editing round for Shapers, sequel to Course of Mirrors, which can now be found on Troubador  or Amazon  and other outlets.

For good reasons, not least to push my first novel into the light, the sequel was neglected for many months. Returning to the characters of CoM in a far future time was such bliss that I almost forgot about you, my readers here.

Yesterday I met with friends I had not seen for a while. We shared stories upon stories. With each of us being the lonely manifested part of our soul crowd, we fine-tuned into the universal themes of combined interests. It’s tricky to express what happens when we allow our associated crowds to wake and remind us of their presences within us. I tried to enlarge on the theme of soul families in a recent post – here.

The gathering of friends reminded me how my novels are based on dialogues with inner companions, opening into a symbolic journey with extended soul families. To acknowledge that our experiences are guided by presences from past and future worlds, gives credence to how we are bound to unnamed companions speaking and acting through us.

*     *    *

‘A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labours of others, living and dead, and that I must exert myself to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.’ – Albert Einstein

‘A day, whether six or seven years ago or whether six thousand years ago, is just as near to the present as yesterday. Why?  Because all time is contained in now.’  – Meister Eckhart

 ‘Long live the dead because we live in them.’ ― Clarice Lispector – A Breath of Life.

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… resurrected treasures – fables …

Kalila and Dimna – Selected Fables of Bidpai – Tales of Friendship and Betrayal – by Ramsay Wood.

Fables can shock and surprise us, irrespective of their antiquity. Various collections, like Aesop’s, derived from versions of beast fables originating from the oral traditions of cultures that existed thousands of years ago. It must be the profound exposition of human nature revealed in this deep sea of tales that made them show up in all corners of the earth. The punchiness of these tales remains relevant to this day, in that their wisdom cuts through our neurotic habit of jumping to conclusions.

Ramsay Wood’s passion and labours of love has given us the humorous and delightful retellings of Kalila and Dimna – Selected Fables of Bidpai, with vibrant attention to detail. His research includes the famous Panchatantra, and a Persian version of the same, translated into Arabic.

In the first volume it says upfront: This book is dedicated to the many midwives of the book, including al-Kashifi, who in the preface to his fifteenth-century Persian version of this story described himself as ‘this contemptible atom of but small intellectual store.’

My 1982 Granada edition is among a bunch of books I’ve loved to bits – with pages falling apart. One of its tales within tales, ‘The Cormorant and the Star,’ depicts how appearances deceive, as all surfaces do. A line from Socrates appears in the margin, ‘Living starts when you start doubting everything that comes before you.’ Given the mirage of opinions floating across our electric screens, if this sensible advice were to catch on, the creativity released would be phenomenal.

Ramsay Wood kindly allowed me to use the little tale of  The Cormorant and the Star in my novel, Course of Mirrors.

Volume 1 of Kalila and Dimna has an introduction by Doris Lessing. She writes: ‘The claim has been made for this book that it has travelled more widely than the Bible, for it has been translated through the centuries everywhere from Ethiopia to China… It is hard to say where the beginning was… One progenitor was the Buddhist cycle of Birth Tales (or Jātaka Stories) where Buddha appears as a monkey, dear, lion, and so on… Sir Richard Burton, who like all the other orientalists of the nineteenth century was involved with Bidpai, suggested that man’s use of beast-fables commemorates our instinctive knowledge of how we emerged from the animal kingdom, on two legs but still with claws and fangs.’

Our inherited animal traits go a long way to explain the variations of our conflicting human dispositions and idiosyncrasies. I wrote a post last year about the perception of difference.

Ramsay Wood presents us with Dr. Bidpai, an incorruptible Indian sage living under the reign of King Dabschelim. The king is a stargazer, blissfully blind to the sufferings of his subjects. In desperation, Bidpai resolves to offer him his wisdom. The reader gets to know the good man through his own voice, sharing how his nervous and skittish wife fusses over his robe before the royal appointment, expressing her apprehension. Bidpai, though terrified of confronting the king, feigns complete confidence. His wife’s instincts were entirely correct, but he knew that his male arrogance would give her the blind strength of anger and that, at least, was better than the helplessness of fear. In truth, jails were full of men and women who had merely irritated The King.

Alas, no matter how delicately and tactfully Bidpai expresses his concerns to King Dabschelim, employing his words as both narcotic and as a scalpel; his audacity lands him in the dungeon. That is, until the king witnesses a shooting star, followed by a prophetic dream, leading him to a buried treasure. When he finds the treasure, it comes with a letter of admonitions from the long dead King Houschenk, addressed to the future King Dabschelim in person. The letter mentions Bidpai as a storehouse of fables that will illustrate the cautions.  Suddenly the sage’s counsel is most urgently required. From there on Bidpai’s wisdom unfolds in the form of stories within stories (think of 1001 Nights,) one tale branching to another, like the roots of a tree that also mirror the branches and tendrils reaching for the sky. The same method of telling can sometimes be found in the visual arts of painting, photography, collage, installations – images within images that convey truths in a dreamlike and surreal fashion. Artists note – fables provide endless inspirations and connections.

Here some links to click on, which will lead to Ramsay Wood’s books of fables:

Kalaila and Dimna Vol 1– introduced by Doris Lessing, illustrated by Margaret Kilrenny.   See also a present Giveaway on Goodreads.  

Kalila and Dimna Vol 2 – introduced by Michael Wood, illustrated by G M Whitworth

In a review for the second volume, Aubrey Davies, another wonderful story teller, writes: Wood concludes the book with two masterful essays. The first outlines the history of the tale and how this treasure trove of sophisticated teaching-stories posing as humble fables has so easily slipped over borders and been embraced by so many cultures.
The final essay was prompted by a challenge from a NASA Director to prove that story is a more effective medium for science outreach than technical writing. It details our limited conceptions of story together with an extended concept of its nature and value.

Highly recommended.

Clicking on any links in this text will open a separate page without losing this post.

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… three winners …

A week ago I used the Goodreads giveaway programme (click here) offering 3 signed copies of Course of Mirrors to readers around the world. I put a one week time-limit on the contest. To my delight, 1152 reader took up the offer during the week. I’m not privy to who they are, but have been given the addresses of the three winners – one from Kentucky and two from Canada. It cost a bit to have my tomes winged and tracked across the Atlantic Ocean, but how encouraging that a whole bunch of book lovers from all corners of the world were interested enough to enter the giveaway event, helping the novel’s visibility. Roughly 10 % of those who signed on to the giveaway event have put the book on their ‘to read’ list. Heartfelt thanks to all, whoever you are. And congratulations to the winners – your book should arrive within a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More delight – I discovered Course of Mirrors in my local Waterstones bookshop, in good company too, which gave me the courage to approach the local paper. There may follow a feature on the novel and its quirky author.

So far three 5 star reviews have been posted, all on amazon.com (click here)   On other countries’ amazon sites, including the UK, it says on top of the page – be the first to review this item. To actually read the reviews one must scroll down the page. I don’t know if there are better ways to handle the various amazon pages, my knowledge and patience is limited.

What is annoying is that amazon tends to refuse reviews that cannot be sourced to a purchase with them. Friends, who bought my book at a signing event, for example, and like the story enough to share a few lines with potential readers, could try and add the line ‘purchased from the author at a signing event’ when they try posting a review on amazon. No idea if this works, creative ideas are welcome.

On my Troubador author site (click here) where I get better royalties from orders, one does not have to be a customer to paste a review, short or long, in the provided box, though it may take a while for new information to be updated.

It’s likely that by July I may have recouped 10% of my publishing expenses. It’s a start, but whether I’ll I recoup enough to publish the sequel to Course of Mirrors is written in the stars.

As for Goodreads – I was unaware that the site sports over 20 million readers. Click here to read up about its history. Amazing. My connections on Goodreads are few. I have not grokked how to best make use the site, but I look out for the reviews posted by my friends there and occasionally post my own book reviews.

That’s it – all about me and the excitement of having delivered my first novel into the public domain. I hope your forgive my indulgence. If it’s anything to go by, even my son was gripped by reading Course of Mirrors 🙂

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… sunshine ☼ parties between rain drops …

Last weekend I stepped out of my recluse bubble. It’s been a while, and I truly enjoyed a spell of rich socialising.

My editor visited and stayed over, enticing me to celebrate the release of ‘Course of Mirrors’ into the world. She brought along an excellent bottle of sparkle. I wish every writer was blessed with such a generous editor friend.

Truth be told, without Zohra’s editing support I would not have reached the confidence to publish my first novel, to continue writing a sequel and even start a third book.

Saturday’s party was to celebrate another friend’s birthday, once more with champagne, and a feast of the most delicious food, prepared by his partner, Ruthie. The afternoon was crowned by the appearance of an auspicious rainbow.

to greet the party – in a sky like rippled silk – a blessed rainbow

For the Sunday occasion a bunch of friends gathered in gratitude, giving honour to the memory of Rahima (Elspeth Milburn-Spottiswood) – a remarkable woman, painter, Sufi and Jungian psychotherapist.

The venue was a beautiful old barn in Surrey, surrounded by green lawns and lush, colourful gardens. We listened to recordings of our friend’s resonant voice reciting poetry by D. H. Lawrence and Rumi. And we watched film clips that brought back into awareness her kindness, knowledge, and her inspirational insights during seminars on archetypes we co-facilitated for many years. Stories were told, readings were offered – and music played. Among the gathering were strangers, new contacts, friends of friends, in the way networks grow.

The sun was warm enough to have a nap on the lawn. Family members, and some of the younger generation attended the day, which was heartwarming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rahima is sorely missed. I wrote about her on this blog before. In 2012  – October 2016 – and in January 2017

Miraculously, the weekend had only the occasional short shower between long spells of sunshine, augmented by the warmth of friendships.

I feel deeply nourished, and am left with the pleasure of knowing that Course of Mirrors is now travelling across the world, and readers, some of you among them, will already be immersed in the story, and hopefully post reviews.

The light in green shoots encapsulates the weekend.

Information on my first novel is on my book page here.

 

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… guiding spirits & stones …

Contemplating buzzwords relating to my soon to be published novel, Course of Mirrors, I thought I make a start with guiding spirits, or angels.

We each have one, so ancient, such intimate presence, so discreet and soft spoken, we fail to notice. My protagonist forgets hers, despite obtaining an object of remembrance she takes on her journey as talisman – a shiny black stone, polished by the elements,  holding aeons of memory and embodying her first encounter with spirit in matter, the invisible in the visible:

“I was bridge, river, riverbed and water falling from the cliff, the aria of water. I was air, breeze and water dust rising. I was mirror to mirrors yet looked from beyond mirrors. Behind my eyes a truth flashed.”

When, seemingly by chance, she does remember her treasure, a timeless power is released, the miraculous happens, aligned with nature’s power to transform.

‘All time is contained in now.’ – Meister Eckhart

‘Time is eternity living dangerously.’  – John O’ Donohue

These related posts open new pages, so you don’t lose this one:

Oh my sweet crushed angel.

The magic of remembrance.

 

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… The banality of good – a review of ‘Alone in Berlin’ …

 

For me, Edward Munch’s painting  –  – The Scream —  sums up the fear of the unknown, and by implication, the fear of the feminine principle – a fear that spurns men towards controlling nature.

Hans Fallada’s novel, Jeder stirbt für sich allein’ (Everyone dies alone,) first came to my attention through its publication in English, ‘Alone in Berlin,’ a translation that was delayed by 60 years. The book has been sitting on my shelf as a ‘must read’ for a long while. Burdened by regressive small-mindedness and divisions around the world, I finally tackled ‘Alone in Berlin,’ aware that it would be a grim read, having been described as a testament to the darkest years of the 20th century from the point of view and experience of ordinary people.

Resistance to the Nazi regime by individuals had no news value after the war. Yet such stories provide the most poignant insights into what it is like to oppose a state under a dictatorship. As such, this book, written raw and in haste eighteen month after the defeat of Nazism, offers a high alert to simple solutions for social problems. The author, Hans Fallada, aka Rudolf Ditzen, died before this last of his works was published in 1947.

The urgency behind the writing is palpable. The players, sketched with harsh strokes, embody the full range of human nature – the capacity for compassion, kindness, complacency, stupidity, meanness, stubbornness, false pride, envy, hate, and resentment, fear, fanaticism and vengeance tipping into the most depraved cruelty.

Very quickly the dread of being caught in the nightmarish system of a totalitarian state jumps at the reader. While the ghostly despot drifts in the background, his control is shown through the dynamic interactions of ordinary citizens – be they power-hungry officers, opportunists, cunning manipulators, cowards, reticent objectors or unsung heroes. Resistance carried the threat of death and seemed futile.

The anguish conveyed is chilling, intensified by the archetypal hue clinging to the tragic comic characters, at times suggesting caricatures. The sheer absurdness of the stupidities and sadistic cruelties depicted may dilute the shock, but it makes the scenes all the more heart-breaking.

The classic method of totalitarianism is to instil fear and divide factions of society against each other, so people spy on each other and nobody can be trusted anymore. In this chapter of history fear served as the leverage for forcing the banal idea of a perfect state that can be safeguarded through clockwork control.

Fallada’s main protagonists, Otto and Anna Quangel, were based on the records of two insignificant objectors to the regime, Otto and Elise Hampel. The elderly couple started spreading anti-Nazi missives written on postcards in buildings around Berlin. For their sadly ineffective attempts of rebellion, the Hampel’s were arrested in 1942, tried in 1943 and executed shortly after. The same fate befell their friends and relatives.

Can a few virtuous individuals, each driven by personal idiosyncrasies, redeem the moral integrity of a nation? It is up to the reader to decide whether the many deaths a totalitarian regime inflicts on soon forgotten brave people are in vain.

The book brought alive the pressure my grandparents must have lived under, as well as the uncanny anxious atmosphere that spoiled my parents’ teen years, and, the wariness I personally and many of the post-war generation developed towards overbearing authority.

Presented in the context of ordinary individual lives, the story reads like a tragic comedy that screams – let us never forget that freedom lies in people being allowed to be different, not chained to a hell of obedience and conformity.

Primo Levi’s declared ‘Alone in Berlin’ as the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis. English readers have had to wait 60 years to read the novel.

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… notes on messy old women … 

p1100616Hurrah, today is poetry day in the UK.Where would our world be without poets?

I sometimes forget I’m a poet.

Waving hello to all poets the world over I’ll share here a poem I wrote years back for an artist friend and her family.

 

… notes on a messy old woman …

p1100622

 

in her art the charcoal mining hills

are shadow lands holding gold

and white mountains of china clay

spark New Jerusalem in her heart

 

she draws Cornish Cliffs rising black

from pale sands – jutting like mythic

creatures into a calm cobalt sea                                                      p1100619

beneath an impassive slate sky

 

she delights in the yellow of lemon

green of pear – shape of aubergine

textures of sunflower – curly kale

and the pink gleam on the skin

of fish – best caught on the day

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each thing away from its home

…solitary objects …

alone in space – the pot – pan

cup – knife and fork she paints

like icons on white and says

 

… they speak for themselves …

 

when spring brings pungent earth                                                     Rose, autum 4 low crop 2

she plants narcissus and hyacinth –

geranium and rose – tomatoes – mint

clematis – azalea and rose again

 

she bends low to weed her garden

but not to wash the kitchen floor

nor does she mind a grimy table

sink – bowl – glass or plate                                                                    Cornw. cross at Lamorna Cove 3

 

yet her home is bright with friends

walls are hung with paintings

shelves groan under books

colourful rugs blot out the dust

 

her stomach has hardened to bugs                                                  Farnham Easter 2011-45

and if a thing cracks or falls apart

one of her five children will come

to fix the chair – shelf – clock – tap

the leaking roof or creaking door

… her strategy works …

all objects she observes revert

to the empty spaces between them

Ashen, 2004

You may wonder what has been happening since my last post, to which many of you kindly responded in relation to my dream and my desolate, confused state, which was heartening.

The post coincided with my publisher coming clean after I had faithfully waited three years for the production work on Course of Mirrors to begin. Still, I’m thankful – at least the path is clear. I decided not to approach any of the giants. I’m taking control. Having had lots of time to compare self-publishing set-ups, I’ve chosen one that’s most respected in the trade and also stores and distributes books.

I believe strongly in Course of Mirrors – the book will be launched in spring 2017.  I’ll keep my online friends updated. Once my first novel is on the road, I may crowdfund for the sequel … and a collection of my poetry.

‘Faith is the evidence of things not seen.’ – W Hutchinson Murray

 

Sorry, the layout of this page turned messy  🙂

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… Winter Tale …

A poem for Ricarda Huch

Snow-tracks, 3Snowflakes spin in lantern beams like distant nebulae,

iron scrapes on ice and halter-bells chime with the trot

of horses. The sledge slows on the steep track,

at the top – a click of tongue – the reigning in.

One window shines in the black yard. Off the sledge,

I drop back in time and nearly slip on frozen muck.

 

Inside, the woman serves hot stew; she says, matter of fact,

‘Stay up, read, that’s fine by us.’ They have an early night.

I feed the fire in the hearth, wrap up and settle near the light

of a paraffin lamp. ‘You love books?’ This is how it began,

Ricarda left books, enough to span the valley to the farm.

You must visit us.’ I was keen, though mother held mistrust:  

 

‘They’re odd; famous relatives don’t take away from that.’

A hiss, a splutter of flame, the antler’s shadow shifts on the wall.

 

Morning sun, books in open crates, scattered across the floor,

nibbled at by Billy goats – how had they opened the door?

Three dog puppies jump and bustle on my bed, gnashing holes

into the eiderdown. They grin at me, feathers on their snouts,

Their eyes propitiate. I let rip and belly laugh. From the hall:

It’s all right; our creatures can wander in and out as they like.

 

The southern window glows opaque with frosted fern and flowers,

cold grace melts under my breath and hand, unveiling a frozen

lake, and beyond the valley, a curl of river and the white rim

of Alps like a parade of porcelain elephants under the pale sky.

From the blue … Ricarda’s voice: ‘Poetry is perception unbound.’

It will take years to feel at home with no rules but my own.

Ashen

An unashamedly romantic  facet of my childhood. For several years I used to spend parts of my school holidays at a ramshackle estate close my home, because my parents had a business and could not always find the time to attend to me as they would have wished. The treasure in that special place (owned by relatives of Ricarda Huch) were the amount of books, stacked up in crates because no one had the time to sort them into shelves. For me, this was an exciting and oracular milieu.

As is the case with 99 percent of images on my blog – the image of the snow tracks is my own.

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… patina – beauty of use & age – wabi-sabi …

From an old postcard. I can't source the photographer.

Old woman – from a postcard I can’t source.

The phenomena of patina on surfaces is intimately seductive – layers of flacking colour on facades, walls and doors of old houses – thresholds dented and polished by feet treading on them for decades and centuries, tools honed by use, lichen-coated wood and stone, the fading or darkening of materials affected by exposure to light, air, water, wind, heat, humidity, wear and touch – and – poignantly – human skin inscribed by living.

Essaouria

The irreverence of organic processes brings endless revelations, a subtle kind of charm, a triumph of endurance, a fleeting glimpse of time in motion, a mystical hue of imperfection, evidence of existence that display glorious or sad narratives of beauty, relationships, melancholy, comedy, tragedy, remembrance and transformation.

Linus and his blanket

Linus and his blanket

Children naturally form emotional attachments to objects that then become love-worn. The remarkable psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott (whose ideas are worth exploring) specialised in early emotional relationship bonds and the importance of a holding environment for children. He coined the term transitional objects for the blankets, stuffed toys, dolls, or anything a child may choose to have an intimate relationship with, for comfort, often substituting the closeness to mother.

And don’t we know …  people are complex and unpredictable when it comes to holding our projections, quite unlike objects, be they associated with visual attractiveness, taste, smell and sound, or with tactile sensations. Objects can retain comforting feelings for us throughout our adult life. Anything from pets, trees, trinkets, letters, pens, photographs, books, significant presents, clothes, furniture, tools, cars, houses, places , feathers, sticks and stones can become treasures that give us pleasure.

Often a search for something lost is at work. My mother, in her later years, became passionately obsessed with replacing the Biedermeier furniture her family had lost in the Blitz on Berlin.

Then there is shabby chic, distressing and antiquing of furniture, which seem to gratify a need for aesthetics and comfort that some people enjoy but could not otherwise afford. To that end various sophisticated techniques are used on wood, glass, metal, stone, plaster and even plastic to replicate the vintage look.

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But the love-worn feel of an object stressed and polished by personal use over many years, additionally endows it with a kind of cellular memory and connection, which adds a more enduring and special significance of a personal kind for which words are inadequate. The value a child or adult attaches to such an object is often poorly understood and not respected by others, be they parents, friends or  strangers.

In my case, apart from certain books I loved to bits,  photographs of dear ones, stones picked in memorable spots, and so on. I grew fond of a purse made for me by my ex-husband. I repaired its stitching many times. The purse is not only useful, with a special compartment for payment cards, and encrypted markings I added inside its flap, it hoards contradictory symbolic connotations worth remembering, though I won’t divulge those. Sales-people in shops tend to look at this purse far longer than necessary. Its leather shines – you see.

P1070909 - smaller My purse is not full enough and my house not big enough to indulge in the hunt and collection of rare objects to which the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi would apply. Then again, I chose my priority to be writing, and am content with the few minor wabi-sabi objects I cultivated over time.

In a way we all express wabi-sabi qualities in our personalities.

… Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous  integrity of natural objects and processes. Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect …

What are the transitional objects in your life that bridge one love to the next?

Clicking on an underlined words in the text will bring up a new page, which means you won’t lose this page.

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