Website alert: Does anybody else perceive a rider on the back of a horse in this detail from NASA's video animation of a flight past the planet Jupiter?!? And if so, is an elephant-headed rider looking over its shoulder or is that an elaborate hood? I'd love to see the photographs from which this segment of the video is projected. Meanwhile, whether you are as taken by this imaginary cosmic figure as I am, do check out Ride With Juno As It Flies Past the Solar System's Biggest Moon and Jupiter. It's mesmerizing
Picturing a World
First off, apologies to Su Blackwell: I've lost the citation for this piece, but it's just too emblematic not to use. I'm nearing the end of the first draft of a short story. I'll come out of the woods soon, but I'm not sure whether what I'm bringing with me will ever be truly satisfactory.
Blog post alert: As soon as I saw Charles Vess's illustration for Joanne Harris's story, "The Barefoot Princess" at Myth and Moor, I ordered a copy of their book, Honeycomb (from a local independent bookstore, naturally). Then I poked around and come upon Honeycomb – An Interview with Charles Vess.
One of my image folders is called "Pictures Demanding a Story," and this photograph is going right into it. Look at the half-circular swirl of the river meander. The stone walls bound it and echo it each other. The bush on the right at the end of the curve rises into a different energy. Oh, and that glimpse of the horizontal sea way off on the horizon. All the elements together proclaim a place of power, maybe of ritual.
A History Blog post on a 9th c. temple complex found in southwest China includes an image of tiles recovered from an ancient kiln. When I saw this one, my reaction was, a Chinese Green Man? Is that foliage on top of his head? Vines or snakes coming out of his mouth? A little poking around on the web turned up Kirtimukha, which may indeed be connected to the foliate heads of Western medieval art.
"Call me Bathsheba." Thus opens Patrick Ness's novel, The Ocean Was Our Sky. (I giggled, remembering the opening to James Thurber's The Wonderful O: "Call me Littlejack,' he roared. And the taverners called him Littlejack.") An obsessed captain hunting a villainous Toby Wick? Surely this must be a joke, a parody of Moby Dick. It works by inversion: ocean for sky, whales who hunt whalers. A female narrator, Bathsheba, against Melville's Ishmael. But the book isn't funny: it's heartbreaking and weird, and Rovina Cai's illustrations are as important as the text.
Last night, tired of political news, I surfed the 'net and found an astonishing collection of dragon images at Tor.com. It goes on and on. I scrolled and scrolled. Most are 20th and 21st C illustrations for fantasy fiction, which vary from cheesy to brilliant. Even the cheesy ones are so professionally executed that if you love dragon pictures, you'll get a kick out of them. Scattered throughout, moreover, are older images from Renaissance Italy to Chinese scrolls to William Blake—and this one by Thomas Cooper Gotch. It stopped me and held me; and this morning it sent me into a variation of Natasha Pulley's writing exercise.
Sometimes a picture gives a lift to the heart. I had a dog, Badger, named for the white stripe up his black face. Because I loved him dearly, badgers have become my totem animal. This morning I was cheered to run across this image in illustrator Danielle Barlow's new Green Wheel Oracle. Whatever helps you through the day (let alone the night)! For more of Barlow's Dartmoor landscapes and evocative mythic illustrations, click here. And thank you, Myth and Moor, for Telling stories back to the land, which puts Barlow's work in context.
For those of us who love Tolkien's Middlearth, September 22nd is a red-letter day not only as the first day of fall but as the shared birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. In a recent Myth and Moor post on The Mythic Art of Alan Lee, the illustrator is quoted as saying "I don't think I've ever seen a drawing of a hobbit which quite convinces me." All I can say is, this 15th C bas-de-page detail is a good place to start! And if you can, sit out under a tree and have a little something in honor of Bilbo and Frodo.
From the dust jacket: "Tatterdemalion is a collaboration between writer Sylvia V. Linsteadt and painter Rima Staines. Together they have created a vivid post-apocalyptic novel in which the northern California of the future is imagined through images and stories rooted deep in the traditions of European folk tales."
I bought a hardback copy of the Unbound edition of Tatterdemalion because I love Rima Staines' art but can't afford an original painting. If I understand Linsteadt's post, A Needle, An Egg, A Novel Being Born at Folklore Thursday, she, too was responding to the pictures but the two of them created the novel together. Certainly, their contributions combine synergistically to elicit dreams, fears, imaginings of what the future holds for the human and more-than-human world. It's a book that haunts me.