Yearning for Wonderland
There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it...until they have grown so old that they forget the way. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again...The world calls them singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland. ~ L.M Montgomery
To the 19th
century mind, the camera captured truth. You placed an object in front of it, clicked the button, and it created an indelible record of reality…or so it seemed. Yet in 1917, two young girls produced photographs which claimed to document fairies. If you are curious, click here to see the photos
and find out more about the Cottingley fairies.
The Fairy Ring by Mary Losure tells the well-known story from the girls’ point of view, first from the perspective of Frances on her arrival in England (Part I), then from the perspective of Elsie (Part II) and then the story intersects to weave the tale of both girls and how their own personal fairytales ended. Losure consults primary sources like previously undisclosed personal letters to build her narrative.
In an era where Photoshop makes edits invisible, the story of the Cottingley fairies holds great fascination. To our sophisticated 21stcentury eyes, the series of fairy photographs is obviously faked, yet the girls persuaded one of the great minds of the 19th century, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Conan Doyle, who wrote one of the most skeptical anti-heroes of all time, Sherlock Holmes, was infamous in his own lack of skepticism. He believed in mystics and communications with his dead son through séance. Conan Doyle published a public defense of the photographs in the noted The Strand magazine, much to embarrassment of the girls’ parents.
The Fairy Ring
has all kinds of engaging little details, like the fact that Frances was originally from Cape Town, South Africa. Or the fact that 15 year old Elsie was rather older than Frances, at nine. The language is delightful and reminds me strongly of Frances Hodgson Burnett – my favorite author who writes children’s books that are more than children’s books. It would be the perfect book to read aloud, as the prose has a charming freshness that lends itself to speaking.
The book has excellent high-quality scans of the photographs, which in itself is a pleasure to those who love Edwardian photography. There is a lot of argument about the final photograph in the Cottingley series. Fairy enthusiasts point out how different it is from the others, which clearly contain paper cut-outs. Here is the photo. The flanking fairies look like paper, but the central creature has a magnificent translucence – what do you think?
You should read this book if you love fairies and wish there was a touch more magic in the world.
Candlewick Press, 2012. Thanks to @quellelove for the fantastic recommendation and ARC .
All those rumors you heard are true. I did post over at Dasia’s amazing blog, Dasia Has a Blog. You can go read it here: Anna’s Guest Post on Dasia Has a Blog – Top Ten Torrid Moments in Period Film.
Disclaimer: This guest post includes a great deal of blushing and self-fanning, as well as some of the most torrid moments in period film I could find. It was too saucy for this blog, which ranks it roughly at PG-13.
I’m still missing my number 10, so head over there and share your favorite. Seriously. Because there’s only so many times I can watch some of these scenes over and over again before people start talking.
WARNING: May cause quickened breathing and increased heart rate. Just saying.
You may notice even though I frequently refer to writing on this blog, I have not actually posted much writing. That is because it’s far more pleasant to muse idly on the beauteous creations of others than to expose your own tender work to the knives of the internet comment board.
However, I have decided this is a cowardly stance. In support of my awesome and amazing writing friends, Lillie McFerrin, Daniel Swensen, Angie Richmond and Angela Goff, I am entering my tiny, humble piece-ling into their Super Cool Blog Hop Contest. In 300 words or less, write a piece of flash fiction, poetry or song using the photo prompt below. You can go here for the details. Below is my wee entry. *covers eyes* Okay, now you can read it.
She kept walking. The Wood wasn’t bright enough this time of night, so she thought – luminosity – and it steadily grew brighter. Time and again, she had told the trees to grow in straight lines, but they never listened. The dark trunks jutted from the ground in irregular clusters, silhouetted in the gloom. She trailed her hand over the flowertops, gently dotting dewed petals with her fingertips. As she brushed past them, they sang along with the wind in a lonesome susurrus. She placed a finger to her lips and tasted the dew; it tasted of memories.
This was how she always walked in the Wood, towards the light. The starflowers grew so deep this time of year; they were already above her knee. Her bare feet grew cold as she squished through the grass, so she decided it was warmer than she thought.
She took great breaths of the air, scented with dead and growing things. The sky was growing steadily lighter, for she knew it was the hour of light. Sometimes when she walked through the mist, she could not decide which way was forward and which was back. So she kept walking. Was there a time she had ever not walked in the Wood? She finally reached the hanging light bulb and reached up, up, up so carefully on her tippy-toes. She pulled the cord and the light went out.
Dear readers, you have been enduring my single voice writing on Yearning for Wonderland for the better part of a year. But no more! Today, you are freed from the constraints of Anna writing, only to be plummeted to the delightful depths of Dasia’s wickedness.
For the first time ever, please welcome Dasia of Dasia Has a Blog
(@awkwardoptimist) and comment with many bouquets of violets and kittens!
I’m so thrilled to be writing for Yearning For Wonderland! I hope to cast off the crass exterior of my Dasia Has A Blog voice to show my more sensitive, fancy side.
Warning: this post is more pictures than words. This is me practicing being demure and soft-spoken, and is in no way because I spent the whole afternoon googling fancy hats instead of actually writing stuff about them.
Oh hey guys you know what I yearn for? FANCY HATS OMG.
Right, I’m being demure now. Oh, how exquisitely charming I do find decorative headdresses! But as a modern lady, I get in such a huff about the … erm… torrid* problems I encounter with them!
They’re either too pokey…
Or keep triggering metal detectors…
Or get me stuck in doorways!
So to save myself and my fellow bitches (erm, excuse me, my ladyfolk-comrades!), kindly take to heart these Five Fancy Guidelines for Hexcellent** Hattery Practices:
- Your hat may be overly embellished if every picnic is interrupted by the sharp-beaked attacks of magpies and crows.
- Your hat may be too complicated if it could double as a wedding centerpiece, or if it compels you to join it in couple’s counseling.
- Your hat may be ahead of its time if it requires batteries or comes with a fog machine to instantly create romantic moments on deserted moors.
- Your hat may be a tad old-fashioned if it tells stories of walking to school barefoot through the snow.
- Your hat might possibly be too large if smaller hats begin to orbit your hat.
And now, for your viewing pleasure, (and also because I meant to make one Polyvore set for this post and got caught up and forgot to write anything else) have some illustrations of torrid haberdashery (that’s how they used to say fashion!porn, right?)
Every proper lady needs a statement hat…
But that statement hat needn’t change your centre of gravity. In fact, it could be both fuzzy and delicious.
And here we have the epitome of a modern lady’s love affair with hats: simple, classy and with just a touch of fanciful whimsy…
So go forth, modern ladies, and hattify yourselves! And remember, while vintage hats are both quirky and thrifty, heed this bonus tip that ladies have been following since the Regency Era:
If your hat has a possum living in it, it may be time to invest in a new hat. ***
* Still not entirely sure what this word means.
** Not really a word.
*** Have some extra fun with this post by starting it again and taking a shot of tequila every time you read the word HAT!
What if falling in love cost you your life? Would you be able to resist?
The story opens in Edinburgh, in the late 1800s, during the greatest freeze the city has known. In this introduction, the cold and snow almost become a character on their own. You meet the protagonist, Jack, as a frail infant abandoned by his mother to the idiosyncratic and brilliant Dr. Madeleine.
To save his life, Madeleine grafts a cuckoo clock to his heart, but this alteration requires rules that cannot be broken:
“FIRSTLY: DON’T TOUCH THE HANDS OF YOUR CUCKOO-CLOCK HEART. SECONDLY: MASTER YOUR ANGER. THIRDLY: NEVER EVER FALL IN LOVE. FOR IF YOU DO, THE HOUR HAND WILL POKE THROUGH YOUR SKIN, YOUR BONES WILL SHATTER, AND YOUR HEART WILL BREAK ONCE MORE.”
Jack is tortured by the continual presence of his clock heart, which ticks and whirrs and cuckoos at the least convenient moment. He is bullied and mocked at school and it embarrasses him in public.
The cast of characters that surrounds Jack as he grows is colorful and eclectic, a peg-leg prostitute and a Scotsman with a musical spine, all overseen by the protective and loving Dr. Madeleine, who has adopted her boy with the cuckoo clock heart.
The heart of the story is Jack’s doomed love for the coquettish, mercurial and short-sighted Miss Acacia, a street singer turned cabaret performer. For Jack, the perils of love are very real and shape all of his choices throughout the book. It’s not only love he has to control, but jealousy and anger ground through the gears of love, as his rival Big Joe vies for the hand of Miss Acacia.
Jack later teams up with the famous film pioneer and illusionist Géorges Melies, who becomes enamored of his condition and its ramifications. The theme of illusions figures strongly, for nothing is quite as it seems in this little fable.
Malzieu seamlessly integrates the elements of steampunk with literary fiction, allowing this novella to transcend the usually cursed designation of “genre fiction”. It should, for this is really literary steampunk and you need neither to be really very literary or steampunk to enjoy it.
Melzieu’s prose has a dreamy, cinematic elegance, distinctly European. The pacing ticks along steadily – it is a quick read at 172 pages – and the action winds tighter and tighter until you cannot wait any longer for the denouement. The vivid characters stay with you long after you close this slim volume. There is a twist at the end, which cuts sharp as the second hand of a clock.
The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart has already been lauded as an adult fairytale, but it seems even more than that. The story concerns the lies we tell ourselves and others in our pursuit of love and our fear of love’s loss. It’s a magical journey that ends too soon, but makes the re-reading all too pleasurable.
Mathias Melzieu is also known as the lead singer of the French band, Dionysos. I have included the peculiarly wonderful book trailer, set to the music of Dionysos. The book is currently in production to become a full-length animated film, La Mécanique du Coeur, directed by the author and Stéphane Berla. In short, Malzieu proves steampunk offers stories with a beating heart.