Saturday, May 5, 2018

Fairy post #35 - Cassandra interview, news & reviews x 3


Faerie News










Hey Ho!
Been about a year 
since my last post, 
so ample news & reviews 
are brimming here.
- Louisa John-Krol
















In 2017, after a decade's hiatus, 
I released two new albums in the faerie genre:

cover painting by Belinda John,
Excalibur sword by Rachael Hammond













Torlan 


A compilation of water music from our various albums on indie record labels, celebrating nymphs, nixies, nereids, mermaids, island witches and other aquatic magic. Between each song is a recording of rain, rivers, oceans or Australian waterbirds. Discover wetlands, dream of voyages beyond the estuary, rest by a stream, trace a forest lane in the rain. Torlan is Welsh for 'from the river bank'. Many other languages are cited in poetry throughout the lyric booklet, laced with lush photographs, from fey waterfalls to haunted billabongs.



Elderbrook


A double album soundtrack for my unfolding fantasy chronicles, set in an enchanted land below a river. Featuring 50 musicians from 15 nations with eclectic instruments - and an illustrated booklet with illuminated borders - it draws upon magic-realism, fables, mythology and fairy tales, mingling Celtic neo-medieval balladry with dreampop and classical ambience, from the melodic whimsy of Violin Velvet, to baroque blues of The Dwarf of Barberry, plushness of Escalder The Green Lady and shimmering energy of Evander the Unicorn.

Both albums are available via PayPal from my website shop, 
in eco-friendly digipaks. Click here


Display of our open digipak with illustrated lyrics, sleeves & eco-friendly materials.


antique book plate
photo by Louisa John-Krol


A mysterious fairy in contemporary Australia!
Here is Adele as Green Lady.






Reviews by LJK 2018

(i) Music Review

Enchanted


 

an album of faerie music by 
Karen Kay & Michael Tingle
UK
Pixie Publishing


Intricate coustic guitar plucking sparkles in the foreground like raindrops, with luminous keyboard sounds that glow, echoing faerie lights of the sleeve art: lanterns lighting a secret path on a lake. Inside, bright green leaves unfurl across internal panels of the digipak. These effects are offset by the sensual, smoky, sultry vocals of Karen Kay, reminding me at times of The Visions of Vespertina, an American ethereal gothic project on the German darkwave label Hyperium in the 90’s; also a trip-hop group Baxter, shades of Kate Bush in Never Forever, Wendy Rule in recent albums such as Black Snake, and the singing of Chloé St Liphard on the album Vernes-Monde by the great French neo-baroque chamber art-pop outfit, Collection d'Arnell~Andréa. Karen’s lyrics, particularly in the opening track, carry sharply defined folk lines reminiscent of Australian mythic rocker Adrienne Piggott in Spiral Dance. 

This album’s musician, producer, arranger and visual designer is the multi-talented Michael Tingle, who co-wrote the songs with Karen, except for #7, ’Stars in Puddles’, by Armorel Hamilton.

One of my favourite tracks is #2 ‘Faerie Feeling’, which arrested me initially because the melody reminds me of the verses in a Clannad divine song ‘Magical Ring’, but it also has a charming counterpoint of aforementioned plucking, mixed close-up like fey fingers tickling earlobes, or splashing dew along one’s skin as we venture farther into woodlands. Who knows which sprite in Titania and Oberon’s retinue might be near?

Another fave is #5 ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, which lives up to being the album’s fifth track by a gorgeous vocal melody with leaps in fifths to the word ‘dream’ (and occasionally octaves, to the word ‘joy’), closing key phrases. Loving Shakespeare, and having a numerological obsession with the pentacle/ pentagram, the combination of ‘dream’ + 5 is hard for me to resist. Moreover, it’s a memorable tune. I also enjoy its reverse-recording motifs, one of my longtime favourite sonic effects. Further, lyrically I like the reference to seeing a dragonfly out of the corner of one’s eye; a nod to the peripheral vision so characteristic of faerie glimpses.

Congrats Karen and Michael on pooling your talents to bring us this crepuscular caress. Long may you and your faerie clans prosper.


- Louisa John-Krol

(ii) Art Review

‘All The Better To See You With’ - Fairy Tales Transformed

Exhibition (23 Nov 2017 - 4 March 2018) 
Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne

Renowned Australian author and Australian Fairy Tale Society member, Carmel Bird, opened this bewitching exhibition, which featured twenty-one contemporary artists exploring anxieties around such themes as injustice, exploitation, transformation, hope and empowerment with stunning diversity of medium and mode, from a lace crafted venetian blind, to printmaking, installation and animation. One of my favourite pieces was The Table of Moresnet, 2016, by Zilverster (a collaboration between Sharon Goodwin and Irene Hanenbergh), a 19th century wooden table upended vertically, upon which the artists had engraved flourishes arising from conversations together, pictured on pages 114-115 of the catalogue. The latter is a substantial book with eloquent articles by Dr Athena Bellas (‘Prohibition, transgression, transformation’), Kelly Gellatly (Director’s Foreword), and Samantha Comte (Curator’s title-essay). Both cite Marina Warner, beloved of fairy tale buffs here and abroad.

The show’s provocations linger long afterwards. What niggles is a quizzical quibble with our era’s zeitgeist: that seemingly the only way adults may access fairy tales profoundly is through disturbance, horror, eeriness or at least a sense of unease. Why? Granted, fairy tales can be horrifying, but that's not all they are, is it? Many modern practitioners of fairy tales feel compelled to remark that not all fairy tales end happily ever after, as if this phrase is a code to enter the dialogue. Dystopian art can be great, but why such preponderance of it? The Jungian preoccupation with embracing our shadow self has its worth, but may we sometimes let in a little light? Maybe it’s trite to claim that fairy tales are ageless or timeless, but they can appeal at any time, age or mood. They operate on multiple levels without needing to be gloomy, any more than they need to be twee. The binary of ‘cute for children, creepy for adults’ may well be a culturally arbitrary boundary, no less limiting than binaries of good-bad, black-white, rich-poor, urban-rural or left-right. Fairy tales play in liminal spaces. They thrive on eluding expectations. Hopefully intellectual mistrust of fey, sweet, gentle whimsy is just a transitory phase that the global intelligentsia is experiencing.

This concern might already have been working itself out through the exhibition, as expressed in Samantha Comte’s quotation of Angela Carter on ‘heroic optimism’ and her allusion to Marina Warner’s observation that fairy tales are a conversation of centuries, highlighting the fluidity of this subject through historical change, intercultural dialogue and shifting landscapes of the psyche. Comte is fascinated by how fairy tales respond to social context, transforming over time, and this exhibition effectively encapsulates that fascination. Themes of lost children have dominated Australian expression, from Frederick McCubbin’s depictions of bush landscapes in oil paintings (images of which wallpapered the storytelling room of Wonderwings Fairy Shop in Richmond, Melbourne, in the last decade of the 20th century, before moving to a similar venue Myths and Legends in Gisborne, country Victoria, still running after over a quarter of a century); to Joan Lindsay’s novel Picnic at Hanging Rock. This not only evokes fairy tales such as ‘Hansel and Gretel’ or ‘Babes in the Wood’, but - as Australian author Sophie Masson wrote in her 2016 essay ‘Fairy tale transformation: The pied piper theme in Australian fiction’ (M/C Journal 19,4) - carries motifs of ‘The Pied Piper’; a mountain swallows the young, led by Pan, invoked by panpipes in the soundtrack of Peter Weir’s 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock.  In flux, yet perennial.

Another point on which I agree with Samantha Comte and Marina Warner is that whilst fairy tales don’t always contain fairies, they do carry magic. I wrote about this is in my 2017 essay ‘Gracing, Musing and the Wishing Well’ (TEXT Journal, 43). 

Thank you to the Curator, Director, Artists and Sponsors for this haunting exhibition.

- Louisa John-Krol


(iii) Book Review

Jack of Spades

 (2017 Eagle Books)

 a novel by Sophie Masson 



Rosalind Duke, Linda for short, cuts a classy heroine with her plucky attitude and acuity. Daughter of a Shakespearean scholar dabbling in espionage, she sails from London to Paris in 1910, unchaperoned and nearly penniless, with her only clue: a Jack of Spades card that a stranger mailed to her home. Raised in a family of avid card players, she interprets that cryptic gesture as a summons, but the handwriting on the envelope isn’t that of her father. Linda finds herself in the cosmopolitan Latin Quarter frequented by students and travellers, sporting a new hairstyle and identity, quite the chic fashionista dashing about in carriages through an international set of spies, detectives, bank robbers, book dealers* and bombs. Oh, and the most delicious confectionary ever! [*bouquiniste: French for second-hand book dealer.]

Descriptions of Parisian streets carry profound love of the culture from which Masson hails. Her entire family is French. Staying with her grandmother Mamizou in France, she learned many tales, and her parents made her speak French at home. (This novel is dedicated to Masson’s mother, Gisèle Masson, who died in 2016, a year before its publication.) The Australia Council awarded Masson a 6-month writer’s residency in Paris. We learn how, in 1910, the district’s main street had been transformed into ‘one of the elegant, wide boulevards’, yet how ‘at its heart lay  a bustling, colourful area reminiscent more of the Middle Ages than the early twentieth century’ (p.17). There is an allusion to the hall of tall mirrors, La Galerie des Glaces (p.173).

Cheekily, Masson breaks the Fourth Wall: ‘Don’t be silly, she chided herself. You’re not in a detective novel. This is real life. And in real life, gentle, unworldly Professors like her father didn’t go around playing Sherlock Holmes’ (p.50). 

Whilst less ethereal than her Snow White or Sleeping Beauty re-spins (Hunter’s Moon and Clementine respectively), Jack of Spades carries several fairy-tale motifs such as riddles and quests, a girl rescuing her father, disguise, hidden allegiances, numerical games, the subliminal or seductive properties of flowers, and the presiding presence of trickster Jack in his guise as joker, referred to as the ‘Wildcard’.

Of all sensory interplay, most prominent is sense of smell, as in the aroma of lilac and violet. Ah, but no spoilers! Suffice it to say the novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind sprang to mind. Additionally, our protagonist cites The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy (p.189). Indeed this would make a lush film! I agree with Anthony Horowitz’s praise: ‘Nobody weaves history, romance and adventure like Sophie Masson’. This novel combines the clever espionage of her Trinity duology (for adult readers) with the accessibility and pithy charm of her YA fairy tale re-spins such as Hunter’s Moon or Clementine.

It is also politically timely. Reading about 19th nihilism sent a chill down my spine, hinting at conspiracies of our own era: the rise of American libertarians with anti-government bravado; Brexit in the UK, fascist uprisings across Europe, with strident nationalism backed by the Kremlin; Russian troll farms spreading Fake News on social media, stirring civil unrest; nefarious misuse of data by Cambridge Analytica to manipulate voters, linked to an Alt-Right movement fostered by such websites as Breitbart and Infowars; and socio-economic fragmentation, with each tribe expressing loss of trust in established institutions. We also have the rise of Islamic extremism. Nihilists in this novel go by the name of The League of the Black Dagger: ‘international political extremists who for decades had waged a campaign of terror all over the world. Believing the world would be better off without governments, they had bombed courts and Parliaments and killed several heads of State’ (p.56); ‘New groups spring up like mushrooms all the time. Secret societies. Revolutionary cells. Hothead rebels. Most are harmless - just vain, turbulent fools who love to shout slogans and shake their fists and talk big’ (p.57). This reminds me of Trump followers shouting jingoistic chants like ‘Crooked Hilary’, ‘Lock her up!’, ‘Build the Wall’, ‘Make America Great Again’, ‘Drain the Swamp’ and so forth. The description then takes a more chilling turn: ‘But a few harbour much more lethal intentions’ (p.57), calling to mind today’s gun-slinging neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville and a murderous motorist, or the powerful lobbying of America’s National Rifle Association, or a recent attack with nerve gas upon ex-Russian spies in Britain, or the fact that President Trump’s father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. 

- Louisa John-Krol


Storyteller Anne E Stewart has begun holding workshops at her Story House And Garden in Daylesford. She continues her lifelong storytelling adventures via such inspirations as Words in Winter & the Art Gallery of Ballarat, and still finds time for fey mischief:


"All fairies most welcome" - Anne


left to right:
Mary-Lou Keaney, Anne Atkins, Suzanne Sandow, Anne E Stewart



Anne E Stewart at Nutcote 2017



PSST: I heard it was Unicorn Day 9th April, and there's another coming up 16th June... ride with joy!






Australian Fairy Tale Society 





In 2017 we presented our inaugural Australian Fairy Tale Award, with this certificate illustrated by AFTS member Erin-Claire Barrow for awardee Belinda Calderone:


Australian Fairy Tale Society Award illustration by Erin-Claire Barrow, Australia 2017
Website


To view our society's sculpture by glass artist Spike Deane, onto which we carve names of annual awardees, please visit her blog - direct link to the page here. You'll find heaps of amazing pieces & posts! 

Oh, and don't miss our fifth annual Australian Fairy Tale Society conference! 
When: Sunday 10th June 2018
Where: Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney
What: 'Gardens of good and evil: growing life, plucking death'
Who: internationally acclaimed bestselling author, storyteller & scholar Dr Kate Forsyth as Keynote, and a host of other talented writers, researchers, illustrators & performers. 
Frank's Fantastic Fairy Tale Theatre,
courtesy of Helen Hopcroft,

pictured here as Marie Antoinette.
Day includes free-to-public show at noon with fairy garden tour, storytelling & puppetry! Roll up for 'Goblin's Gold' (Thrive Story), Frank's Fantastic Theatre (Rapunzel & spinach) and find out about 'The Language of Flowers' in Fairy Tales! 



Register here









Interview 

with Brisbane author Kathryn Gossow

about her novel Cassandra 

(Odyssey Books 2017)


Introduction/Short Review: 

Quoting from one of my favourite poets, C.P. Cavafy, won me over even before the first line of the novel, after the title and haunting cover art had mystified me. After all, Cassandra not only resonates as one of the great classical stories through the ages, but also serves to illustrate ‘HSP’ explored in The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr Elaine Aron. According both books, prescience, the gift of prophecy or at least an eerie sense of foreboding, is not limited to a few sibyls and oracles, but can manifest in the girl next door, and may describe a perceptive person with more imagination, foresight and empathy than most; he/she is likely to envisage ramifications several steps after a decision, or could function as a sort of canary in a cage in our workplace, before disastrous new trends such as open-plan offices/schools are inflicted on an unsuspecting population. Rather than dismiss our Cassandras as toxic troublemakers, we have an opportunity to embrace them as useful guides. Too often we fear or shun them, as happens in Monteverdi’s opera Sir Orfeo, when the Messenger bears news to Orpheus of his beloved Eurydice’s death by snake bite. Interestingly there are echoes of this in Gossow’s novel, when a snake with orange flecks on its belly rears up and bites our heroine Cassie. Is this a tangible event, through which poison transfers some under worldly magic to a receptive child? Or is it more figurative, a symbolic coming of age, a transformation from inquisitive child into prescient mystic? I love the way these possibilities remain mysterious. It’s a mark of good writing that our imaginations are not limited to only one interpretation. Without giving any spoilers, I’ll add that a plot twist in the last couple of chapters was truly arresting.

L: How did you come to publish this novel, and who were your manuscript mentors along the way? I gather that you have been involved in at least one book club or writing group.

K: I was too scared to let my book club read Cassandra until it was published. It’s like how it is easier to give a speech in front of strangers. Or is that just me? I live in the country so I joined an online writers group. The women in that group, who were from all over the world, where incredible at helping me hone and polish my writing at a sentence and word level. Then I won an Australian Association of Authors mentorship and worked for a year with editor Judith Lukin-Amundsen. Winning the mentorship and working with Judith was important for my confidence. I think most beginning writers struggle with knowing when their writing is good enough to be published. The Queensland Writer’s Centre is also a great resource for writers here. Through QWC I did a Year of the Edit course with Kim Wilkins. She is an engaging and clever teacher. I recommend any opportunity to do a workshop with her. Through courses at QWC I have also met writers who have become my friends and supports. I won’t tell you how long I worked on Cassandra. It is too embarrassing. Eventually Odyssey Books picked her up and published her with the most beautiful cover ever. I am so in love with it.

L: Your subtle weaving of Classical Greek mythology into contemporary Australian rural culture is clever. It doesn’t feel at all pastiche; rather, it’s authentically integrated. Some of this occurs with references to iconography that invokes deities at a subconscious level, such as the presence of olives, traditionally associated with Athena. Others are more raw and explicitly in the foreground, such as the near-ravishing of Cassie, alluding to the ambiguity of reporting around Cassandra’s possible rape in Troy. What are some other devices you used to link ancient Greek mythology with our own time and place?

K: Most people don’t have an extensive or even basic knowledge of Greek mythology. At first I had chapters with the voices of the gods talking about themselves and Cassandra because I thought the book would only make sense if people knew the something of the original myth. On the advice of my beta readers I dumped them. It was hard because I liked hearing Apollo claim he did nothing wrong in cursing Cassandra and Zeus believe his womanising was acceptable.

I realised the story needed to stand on its own so people with no knowledge of Greek mythology could enjoy the book. Most people may have heard of Cassandra of Troy but would not know her role in Greek myth, they might just vaguely know she could predict the future. The mythology nerds would pick up on the references, like the olives, or Zeus welding his sculptures together as though lightning were coming out of fingers or Cassandra’s visions of the Fates.

Instead of retelling Cassandra of Troy’s story I have transplanted the characters to 1980’s Queensland and imagined what would happen if a girl could predict the future and how isolating and confusing that would be. I imagined Athena as an independent, feminist know-it-all who never had a mother. I put her in a ramshackle farm house with her arrogant worldly womanising father and made her quest for scientific knowledge greater than her concern for Cassandra’s wellbeing. Essentially Cassandra and Athena moved into my childhood home!

L: You are a member of the Australian Fairy Tale Society. How did you find out about us, why did you join, and which projects or activities do you particularly hope will flourish?

K: I am pretty sure Aunty Google told me about AFTS. I signed up and paid my membership and then found out to my utter pleasure that there were fairy tale rings! I have since discovered a community of amazing people with astounding fairy tale knowledge. I’m ring leader of the Brisbane Ring, in the bureaucratic role of making it happen. Rebecca-Ann Do Rozario with her wonderful fairy tale knowledge helps me facilitate on the day. I hope we will be able to grow the Brisbane Ring and bring more people along. I am also excited about the planned anthology.

L: How do you interpret the word(s) ‘faerie’, ‘fairy’, ‘faery’, ‘fey’, etc. whether as nouns or adjectives, and what resonance do they hold for you?

K: I just finished reading Susanna Clark’s Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell and I think her fairies are my fairies. The Gentleman with the Thistledown hair is arrogant, self-serving, volatile, unable to fathom the other’s thoughts or feelings, oversensitive, scornful… The world of magic and fairy in her novel are dangerous and charming. (That’s no sort of academic answer. I live my life in fiction.)

Cassandra by Kathryn Gossow,
2017 Odyssey Books, Australia
L: Cassandra represents for many of us, the pain of being misunderstood. Which aspect(s) of her personality or experience drew you to her?

K: I was first inspired by Apollo’s curse. He said that no one would believe Cassandra’s prophecies. If Apollo taught or gave Cassandra the gift of prophecy and she had promised herself to him in return, then perhaps she had already seen he was going to betray her. Is that why she reneged on the agreement? In which case she caused the curse trying to prevent the curse. In part I was exploring the tension between fate and free-will and whether we believe we have control over our destinies. At the same time there is a danger to being future focussed. We all do it, plan our weekends, holidays, worry about things that could happen. We risk forgetting about the moment we are in.

Cassandra’s loneliness and isolation drew me to her as a character. She just wants to be loved and liked but she has this crazy ability to predict the future and it consumes her. Many of her experiences are the way I felt at her age and naughty things I did. The drunken parties on the riverbank, trying to fit in with the crowd, falling for the wrong boy. I also fell in love with Athena. She is the girl I wish I was when I was a teenager. I have a clear memory of the moment I imagined her a young feminist interested in science instead of boys.

Review & Interview by Louisa John-Krol, May 2018



Art by Alyz Tale (when editor of Elegy Magazine), Paris
inspired by my song 'Blackbird' (on Ariel*&
accompanying her story 'Louisa'
published in her collection Mon dernier thé.
* The Ariel album, on French record label Prikosnovenie, is long out-of-print
but set to return in a new collection soon.
* * * * *


Firebird by Edmund Dulac 1916
Australian Fairy Tale Rings are currently exploring 'The Firebird' fairy tale. Enjoying Igor Stravinsky's music by that name, brimming with flurries of plucking and piping in the foreground to depict feathers, conjuring, rustling leaves or a sense of hide and seek, of avian caprice, afore lofty, swirling, arcing vistas.

Patricia Poppenbeek now leads Victoria's Fairy Tale Ring and chairs a sub-committee for publishing an Anthology, giving me a chance to focus on duties as President & Acting Secretary of the Australian fairy Tale Society, a national charity. This year AFTS reached membership of 100 for the first time in its history and rapidly exceeded it.

We've released our 6th edition of the Ezine, thanks to Editor in Chief Claudia Barnett and Sub-Eds Erin Hallowell-Gartlan & Spike Deane, with support of a talented troupe. We are grateful to founding Editor Gypsy Thornton for her beautiful templates on CANVA, and look forward to issue #7 with editorship of fairy tale fashionista Dr Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario & incoming fairy, Sub-Ed Avleen Masowan. Welcome!

Firebird by Ivan Bilibin 1899

Postscript:


In earlier posts I used double inverted commas for quotations and titles. Lately I’ve come to prefer italics for titles and single inverted commas for quotations. After a year away from blogging, I've decided to adopt this preference here.

Future reviews or interviews are set to include more Australian fairy tale works such as Vasilisa the Wise - stories of brave young women - retold by Kate Forsyth, illustrated by Lorena Carrington (Serenity Press); The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross (Hodder & Stoughton); The Stolen Button by Marianna Shek, illustrated by Leila Honari; and Child of the Twilight by Carmel Bird (Fourth Estate); and more ethereal music too!

Fey regards,

Louisa John-Krol



Homepage of ethereal music






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