Monday, February 27, 2006

Farewell, Octavia Butler

I was terribly saddened to hear that the writer Octavia Butler died unexpectedly this weekend. There were so many books I was looking forward to read, so many stories she had yet to spin. I've used her book Kindred for my composition courses many times; I used her Parable of the Sower for my speculative fiction course last spring.

The latter book rings particularly loudly in my mind at this minute: the young narrator, Lauren, creates her own religion based on the horrors of the world unfolding around her. She sums up the epiphanies in short verses that become her manifesto, "Earthseed." The first of these is perhaps the most direct:

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

Is Change.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I just opened a box with the new edition of Volume 1 of the Longman Anthology of British Literature. Flipping through it to look for changes, I came across a photo from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It actually has a passage from the film script, too (Arthur and the Peasants).

And people actually ask me why I don't use a Norton Anthology! No comparison.

Monday, February 13, 2006

New Publication

I'm happy to report that I will have a publication forthcoming in an unusual outlet: Puppetry International Magazine. It brings together a variety of skills and readings which is always fun. The essay is "Future Medieval Space: Performing 'Punch' in Riddley Walker." I have been really fascinated with Punch of late, and this is one of the payoffs. I know I've mentioned Riddley Walker before (and recently reviewed the latest book by Russell Hoban), but the part that Punch plays in the novel continues to fascinate me, as does Hoban's use of the legend of St. Eustace (and the wall painting based on it in Canterbury Cathedral. Perhaps the fractured language that Hoban uses to evoke the stunted world after nuclear holocaust intrigues me most of all. Naturally, I have made sure to include this favorite book in my course about Canterbury that I'm teaching as part of the London trip this spring.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Well, you may recall my recent post about Finn friend Ulla Suokko, musician, storyteller and now, actor appearing on Conan O'Brien's show as part of his growing fascination with Tarja Halonen (thanks to Diane for that link).

Now another Finn friend has got into the act. Conan is going to Finland to meet with Halonen (who did successfully win re-election) and he's taking with him a kantele made by friend and extraordinary kantele-maker Gerry Henkel. Specially made for the television host, the "Konantele" has an image of Conan right on it:

You can read the whole story here!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Beowulf, Again

From Ain't it Cool:

"According to Avary, he and Neil Gaiman went to the original epic poem and did as literal a translation as possible, with the only liberties filling in holes in the story, either gaps in time or something left unexplained...In this instance, they realized that Grendel was the son of the demon and The King, which would be the reason he's tormenting his father, as well as dragging living men off to his mother."

Uh, sure. And the gold bikini on Angelina Jolie (AKA Grendel's mom) -- what's the Old English for that? Se gylden brydbosm?


Three women of incredible stature passed from this earth recently:

Betty Friedan, whose monumental Feminine Mystique changed a generation and gave a name to a problem that many women experienced but could not articulate. The 1950s was the first time women were expected to be happy doing nothing but childcare and housekeeping. It was the first time there was that luxury. But it is not enough to keep the mind engaged. Shiny floors do not fulfill any human being -- children need parents who are full participants in the world -- not half-beings who derive all their fulfillment through other people.

Coretta Scott King, who was a devoted peace worker and concert singer before she joined hands with her more celebrated husband. She was never less than a partner, although the media commentators of the 1960s (and, regretfully, beyond) saw her only as a helpmate to her spouse. Her determination never flagged and she has shaped a legacy that makes this country a better place than it could have been without her.

Wendy Wasserstein, who explored the changes these two women helped foment. Some breakthroughs are so profound they are barely recognized later; the mainstream success of a play with all female characters in 1977 surprised playgoers and critics. Wasserstein's low key humorous approach to the problems that plagued a generation adjusting to the freedom and responsibilities of second wave feminism demonstrated the struggle without evoking the usual hostility aimed at anything "feminist." Perhaps her most lasting legacy comes upon the wave of memories of her not just as the successful playwright, but as the friend and mentor who was always willing to go the extra mile for those she could help. To be acclaimed for your work is wonderful: to be acclaimed universally as a person who brought much good to the world, well -- can there be much better?

Who will step into their shoes to lead a new generation?