With some of the country’s Meccas of higher education offering courses in fantastical geeky disciplines like Elvish, Skryim, and Zombie media, it’s no surprise that fanfiction has become an interest to the tweeds in academia. Annie Jamison, a professor at the University of Utah with a PhD from Princeton, has recently published a fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World, which explores the role and importance of fanfiction in modern literature and culture.
Congratulations, you’ve made it halfway through V-day, whether you like it or not! Your stomach is probably grumbling about now, and it’s probably because you haven’t had any food specifically prepared for your by Molly Weasley today. The bad news is this article won’t cook the food for you, but the good news is there are some excellent resources to help you cook like the Weasley matriarch herself! Okay, okay, there are recipes for cooking like a house elf, too. And for making butter beer. And for other delicious food so good you will likely think it took actual magic to make them. Continue reading
Dinosaur Kisses, by David Ezra Stein
Age Range: 1-3 for read aloud, early independent readers (4-6).
Read-aloud time: Approximately two minutes
Dinah is a baby dinosaur who STOMPS, CHOMPS and WHOMPS her way through her surroundings trying her best to kiss without disastrous results! It’s not until Baby hatches that Dinah finds a friend with the same energetic interest in kisses. The story encourages exploration, and trying out new things, as well as understanding consequences of your actions. Large print and colorful pictures make this a perfect tale to take from bedtime reading into the early stages of reader independence.
The thing about the Christmas season that I enjoy the most is that out of any other time of the year it is the most backwards looking. There is no other time of the year (at least for Americans) outside of extremely regional cultural heritage festivals and perhaps Easter that things from yesteryear are brought back into the public consciousness and it actually be paid attention to in such a big mainstream manner. Classic film, swing jazz and big band, Old Hollywood glamor, ballet and all things “antique” or vintage and Victorian frilled are suddenly very important for 5 or so weeks and onto New Years. Suburban homogeneity is punctured with yesterday or even the ghosts of suburbia past come to visit just the same.
The sheer paganism of the traditional customs, decorations and foods of the season is enough to send my heart a flutter but the season’s various “styles” of nostalgia; Colonial, Victorian, 1920′s and 30′s Christmas and 50′s-60′s Christmas and now 80′s and 90′s era “Age of Nintendo” type nostalgia provide a “pick your yesteryear” type of holiday.
One of my favorite types of Christmas, which is common in Britain and the UK but not so prevalent in the warm and fuzzy “Santa Claused” (since the 1930s) USA, is the “Gothic” side of Victorian Christmas traditions. A Christmas Carol ring a bell? Unlike the US where Halloween is the season for ghosts and spirits and telling spooky tales; Christmas is actually the “time to scare” and Victorian Christmasases with their obsession with the supernatural often had lots of fortune telling parties (pouring hot lead into kettles of water to tell fortunes) and ghost stories among other little things amidst their Christmas party frivolity.
In the spirit of all things “sort of” creepy and the macabre and charming I will be offering three great “antique” reads still published by NYRB in case you have some hankering for things a bit less sweet;
His story delves into a tale of the area where long ago poor and desperate villagers, tormented and tortured by their local baron, a former Teutonic Knight, are tempted by the Devil to help complete the impossible tasks the baron has ordered of them. There is, of course, a catch; a unbaptized baby (what else?). The villagers; including all the men flee and run from the offer. All but one, a farmer’s wife named Christine stands up to the Devil and considers the offer if only to save them all. She makes the deal with a kiss upon her cheek; but as the villagers have babies and instantly baptize them; a a mark in the shape of a spider starts to appear where the kiss was planted upon her cheek. Then come the spiders. Forewarning; heavy Christian symbolism and it’s not terribly feminist though I do think this story and the actions of the main character, Christine could again with a bit of a revisionist feminist stance and re-write could really transform this old parable. But it’s still worth reading if you enjoy some creepy crawly action.
3. Autobiography of A Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
Russian short stories. If that doesn’t prepare you in knowing it’s going to be strange then I’m not sure I can adequately prepare you. Magical realism meets surrealism dunked in the special Eastern European sensibility and aesthetic and a heavy dollop of “SCIENCE! PHILOSOPHY! MATH!” sour cream; the fingers of an acclaimed pianist’s hand decides to bolt and spend the night roaming the city, a story about a man whose lifelong dream is to bite his own elbow, stories about eccentric mathematicians and fairytales about cracks, The Land of Nots. The whole kitchen sink (well not really but that’s what it feels like)
What makes these gleefully macabre and matter-of-fact is the precise delivery of Sigizmund’s prose. It’s eccentricity and sense of self really shines through. I can’t say recommend it enough for a fun, but in a very literate manner.
Short, sweet, wonderful prose for stockings that like a little bit of bite. Check them out!
Have a GREAT holiday!
Staff Writer/The Doctor
Halloween is fast approaching (says the writer who has yet to start making his 1930′s Flash Gordon hot-pants costume) and to celebrate I’ve found a wacky bunch of informative and even a little spooky and all-together amazing books to share with everyone from Applewood Books, who specialize in new reprints of classics from yesteryear. These books are historical, odd, and are still helpful and fun even today. Parents, do you want you and your kids to step away from the TV, tablets and laptops for a little while? Many of these books are chock full of fun and interesting activities and things to do this fall and onwards into the future that will help unplug and interact. Don’t have kids? These books are still great to have and are great references especially if you babysit. Or actually like to have fun. It’s always good to have a party trick. Which leads me to my first pick:
Madam Le Marchand’s Fortune Teller and Dreamer’s Dictionary.
In the spirit of Halloween there is first this fun “occult” gem and guide originally all the way back from 1863. This eerie guidebook to fortune telling provides an endless list of how to tell people’s, especially ladies, fortunes in various ways from rolling dice to tea leaves, palm reading, cards, counting people’s freckles or moles or egg whites, being able to calculate a person’s character and discovering truth from falsehoods. It also includes a nifty pre-Freud “Dreamer’s Dictionary” a glossary of dream symbols and their meanings to one’s future or current state , lists of fortunate and unfortunate days and even particular charms to enact. With this little tome kids at parties or get-togethers can recreate the fervid Victorian interest in the supernatural, read each others or adult’s fortunes and one can liven up any Halloween or Birthday (or even Christmas if you prefer the British tradition of horror and ghost stories) party with a real life Harry Potter Divination “lesson” or exhibition. It’s still fun stuff to do and weird people out. Speaking of finding things to do…there is then my second pick, which is actually two:
The Boys and Girls Own Books
Continuing the guidebooks filled with fun activities to do there are also two books hailing from 1829 and 1834 respectively that can fast become a great source of entertainment; The Boy’s Own Book by William Clarke, and The Girl’s Own Book by Mrs. Maria Child. Written long before the advent of electricity, radio, television, internet and videogames these books are stuffed to the brim with fun games and guides of activities kids can enjoy and play the same way they did two-hundred years ago. It’s not only fun to see what kids back then did, it’s just as much fun to revive them. Many of the games are still played today so many are still quite accessible.
The Boy’s Book is filled with rough and tumble gymnastic games and exercises and chemistry-based experiments and activities that would make most modern helicopter parents faint (yay mercury!), but there are also guides to other ball-based games and small “sports” games ranging from marbles to spinning tops. There are guides on swimming, learning sign language, archery, draughts and checkers, “ledgerdemain” or slight-of-hand and magic tricks, card-games and many other fun miscellaneous activities. One interesting one in particular is how to preserve rose-buds in early summer to bloom at Christmastime (this was before repeating roses were common and the planted varieties at the time only bloomed in late spring), arithmetic games and puzzles, riddles and guide to fishing, fencing and pigeon care. There is literally nothing left out in this little book and while a bunch of entries are purely comical or rather impossible to do now and serve more as a learning experience and a laugh, boys and girls both can still find fun and interesting things to do or learn how to do from this book. It’s super useful for those who watch kids, are a camp counselor or just want to be the “cool” cousin or sibling.
Likewise The Girl’s Own Book is chock full of games in which to play, and while somewhat dated in terms of the scope of what girls could do is still surprisingly engaging; girls didn’t just sit and play with their dolls in fact many of the games suggested in this book are still played today on playgrounds (if kids are even granted recess) by both sexes. The activities in this book are more group based; circle based both word and action games to do with friends most involving a little bit of roleplay. Some games like “Cries of Paris” involve a lot of roleplay, each child assigned to be a certain pedlar (cherries, umbrellas, water-bearer, flowergirl etc) which also involves the use of french phrases. Perhaps a helpful exercise and game for French teachers to try out. The Girl’s Own Book also features guides to archery, riddles and puzzles, tongue teasers and songs, active games like shuttlecock (similar to badminton), old out of fashion or rather forgotten games like the more or less exclusively female game la grace (small hoop throwing and catching back and forth on two rods) and even a guide to calisthenics. Additionally the Girl’s book is much more creative activity based, providing different things in which to actually “make” with one’s hands such as paper screens, many different types of baskets, paper cutting and folding, candle ornaments, engraving egg shells, butterfly and leaf impressions, and then domestic topics with guides to sewing and knitting and even encyclopedia-esque guides to bees and silkworms, on keeping animals and also gardening. While a bit less full to the brim with activities as The Boy’s Own Book it still is a extremely cool book full of activities to try instead of the usual offers. I’d gift both books together as a bundle for both girls and boys to get a complete scope of fun stuff to do or as a gift for teachers and babysitters.
Onwards to my third pick!
Goops and How to Be Them: A Manual of manners for Polite Infants by Gelett Burgess
This 1900 book is a guide on manners full of small little poems and poem-y stories to teach etiquette and proper outstanding morals in children. It’s notable for its very stylized and simple illustrations featuring the titular ” Goops”, children who are depicted as these bald round headed little caricatures with noodley almost octopus like arms and simple but very expressive faces including quite a bit of side-eye. Many of the little ditties featuring these Goops as they both behave and misbehave are actually still pretty applicable to kids today, but the real charm lies in the artwork, whose simplicity and quirkiness looks like something someone today would come up with, not 113 years ago. The poems and little stories are charming in their own way and while somewhat dated the book can still be enjoyed for the illustrations alone which are quite different from most children’s book art of the time which leads us to my final pick….
Freaks and Frolics of Little Girls and Boys by Josephine Pollard
If this book title doesn’t belong in an October review then someone help me. This lushly illustrated book of poems and little ditties about mischievous, overtly emotional or just naughty children in the era of being seen but overall not to be heard or fuss is different from the above book in that it is more conventional in it’s “playing it straight” Victorian earnestness…but…. there’s something amiss and extremely compelling amongst its gorgeous color prints. While a great deal of the entries are straightforward tales about little girls such as “Foolish Fanny”, and “Stupid Jane” (things that don’t age too well) and boys like “Teasing Tom” and “Inky Jake” all of whom express “too much” of a certain emotion, or are vain, or get ink everywhere, essentially examples of what not to be…there….seems also seems to be….oh….a poem-story about a kid catching on fire as a warning not to play with fire. Okay. Let’s see…oh god she’s getting attacked by winged pies….and oh god a boy makes himself into a kite….another boy getting attacked by poultry and other farm animals in his dream…..oh….oh my. He actually gets dipped into a vat of ink? Oh god. This is some weird stuff. Help. Help.
Amidst the earnestness and some rather dated and “cutesy” stories there are somewhat macabre or fanciful additions to teach those kids who are seen as less than good or well behaved a “lesson” that truly put the “freaks” in the book. These are further emphasized or rather contrasted by the very pretty, conventionally detailed and idealized artwork of the time which is a treat to look at especially for those interested in what I’ll assume is mostly middle and upper-class fashion and activities of the time for children. The array of socks, bows, stockings and shoes and jackets the little boys wear is just as interesting to look at as the girl’s smock dresses maybe even more so as the boys fashions are no longer really worn whilst variations of some of the girls’ dresses are still used and worn by little girls even today. Much of the behavior seen in the book would not be seen as freakish today either but more reflects what was seen as bothersome to Victorian sensibilities so it’s further a curious read to see how things have changed and realize how things have changed since then too. Yet another book that is great for checking out for the illustrations, fashion, and bizarre stories alone.
So if you can, take a look into the past this week and pick up one of these books or seek them out to have or give to others as they’d make a perfect gift for the right kid or person. You might learn something frighteningly good if you do!
See you next week!
Staff Writer/The Doctor