Welcome to my Inner World. I am a French self-taught artist, and these past twenty years I have made Norway my home. Moving to the Lofoten islands was the greatest present I ever made to myself and the Arctic landscapes are indeed a true treat for any artist’s eyes. I live with my British soulmate,… Continue Reading
When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?
Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.
Reviewed by Rick Kleffel: Books about monsters, apparitions, UFOs, demons and “the otherworld” tend to be fiction. But those that aren’t, those that purport to document or comment on such phenomena in what passes for “real life” vary across such a wide range of quality, credulity and comprehensibility that it’s tempting to dismiss them all as pure badly-written hokum. Of course, as in any genre, no matter how microscopic, there are classics. Charles Fort’s ‘Book of the Damned’ is surely in the forefront. But once you get past the looming shadow of Charles Fort, matters become far murkier. Patrick Harpur’s ‘Daimonic Reality’ is a work that would surely make the top ten lists of many Fortean scholars. Subtitled ‘A Field Guide to the Otherworld’, ‘Daimonic Reality’ synthesizes the reports of many different phenomena into a single Unified Field Theory of the Strange. It’s an audacious attempt that largely succeeds. Harpur has a low key writing style that makes this work easy to read. His comprehensive knowledge of a wide variety of inexplicable events is impressive and entertaining. Most importantly, he has drawn together these disparate elements with a rather interesting philosophical take that looks to Jung, Fort, Blake, Yeats and beyond. There are enough elements in this stew to make it a really tasty treat for the hungry mind. ‘Daimonic Reality’ is divided into three sections through which Harpur journeys ever deeper into the mind behind the perceptions. But he’s careful not to shortchange the perceptions and events themselves. ‘Part One: Apparitions’ covers apparitions of all kinds, from UFOs to lights in the sky, from aliens and fairies to sightings of Black Dogs and Big Cats. Harpur’s economical coverage of these subjects makes it easy for any level of Fortean reader to enjoy the individuality of each experience. But this treatment also enables the reader to step back and see the bigger picture, to move towards the idea of the ‘otherworld’. The individual reports are carefully chosen and beautifully written. Harpur takes a more substantial step towards the otherworld in ‘Part Two: Vision’. Starting with a discussion of “seeing things”, he moves on to visions of ‘Ladies’, which are dominated by (but not exclusively) visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He discusses the evidence that these encounters leave behind, from fairy shoes to crop circles. (Coming soon to a theater near you.) He talked about the part that Imagination plays in the otherworld, and finally reaches the mythic land itself. In ‘Part Three: Otherworld Journeys’, Harpur gives both practical and philosophical advice for otherworld journeys. He discusses the variety of journeys that one can have, from missing time to alien encounters, from a trip to fairyland to an out-of-body experience. When Harpur sticks to the practical, he has practically no peer in writing compelling prose about otherworldly experiences. His philosophical thoughts aren’t quite as page-turning, but they’re pithy, fascinating and pertinent. Harpur is not content to merely provoke thought. He wants to invoke internal debate in the reader, and does so with some formal philosophical discussion that is difficult to pull off with the authority that Harpur achieves. He’s a remarkably intelligent writer, and his work requires a reader of nearly equal intelligence. You don’t have to be a philosopher to read Harpur’s work, but it certainly helps to be philosophically inclined. This is not mere reportage of events, but a reasoned analysis, with conclusions that go well beyond ‘Is it real or are they all just a bunch of crazy yahoos?’ That there is an audience for this sort of thinking is shown by the eternal sales of the works of writers such as Carlos Castenada, not to mention the immense and increasing popularity of Fortean fiction, horror, science fiction and fantasy. That’s because Harpur is looking to snatch something from the center of creation, something that is partly in the human mind and partly in the otherworld. ‘Daimonic Reality’ does an excellent job grasping at the ineffable and getting it in print.
A mysterious and richly evocative novel, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque tells the story of portraitist Piero Piambo, who is offered a commission unlike any other. The client is Mrs. Charbuque, a wealthy and elusive woman who asks Piambo to paint her portrait, though with one bizarre twist: he may question her at length on any topic, but he may not, under any circumstances, see her. So begins an astonishing journey into Mrs. Charbuque’s world and the world of 1893 New York society in this hypnotically compelling literary thriller.
Gr. 6-12. Picture an alternative London where the Parliament, composed of powerful magicians, rules the British empire. When five-year-old Nathaniel’s parents sell him to the government to become a magician’s apprentice, the boy is stripped of his past and is given over for training to a grim, mid-level magician from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Over the next seven years, Nathaniel studies the lessons given by his cold master, but in secret he delves into advanced magic books, gaining skill beyond his years: he summons a djinn to steal the powerful amulet of Samarkand. Inspired by a desire for revenge, this bold act leads to danger and death. Nathaniel’s third-person narrative alternates with the first-person telling of Bartimaeus the djinn, a memorable and highly entertaining character. Rude, flippant, and cocky, his voice reflects the injustice of his millennia of service to powerful magicians who have summoned him to do their capricious bidding. His informative and sometimes humorous asides appear in footnotes, an unusual device in fiction, but one that serves a useful purpose here. Stroud creates a convincingly detailed secondary world with echoes of actual history and folklore. The strong narrative thrust of the adventure will keep readers involved, but the trouble that is afoot in London extends beyond the exploits here. The unresolved mysteries will be more fully explored in the next two volumes of the trilogy. One of the liveliest and most inventive fantasies of recent years. Carolyn Phelan