Meanwhile, in Diagon Alley…

In case you every wondered what writers do all day–well…we write, mostly. Even when there’s boggarts in the closet and nargles in the pub, we still scramble around and find ways to write and edit and do other writerly, blog-type things. To put it another way, the Blogengamot has all found ways of keeping busy while the Pubs been undergoing its exorcisms (if that’s the word I want).

Let me introduce you, if I may, to one of those other projects, a joint venture between Mr Pond (speaking!) and Jenna, as well as remarkable people like Katherine Langrish, friend of the Pub. Revgeorge has also been known to wander in from time to time. It’s a blog and literary journal called Unsettling Wonderdevoted to folklore and fairy tale of all types, but especially the slightly stranger, lesser-known, more unexpected types.

We just published the second issue of the journal this week, on the topic of ‘Wise Fools‘–a traditional character type you may recognize from having read about Samwise Gamgee, poor dear Dobby, and everyone’s favourite: Neville Longbottom. The journal is a compendium of new fairy tales, translations of old folktales, poetry, original illustration, maps, and even an essay or two. So, if you’re interested in fairy tales, fantasy literature, mythic arts, or even just writerly conversation, please do apparate across, get yourself a copy of the journal in print or e-book, and join the conversation at the blog.

Here’s a snipped from our ‘About’ page to give you a feel for–well, what we’re about:

Do you remember the first time you read a story that meant something to you? A story that whisked you away to another place, another time, another reality. Not just a place full of everyday things and happy endings—though they were there, of course, and important. But an unsettling place of strangeness and peril and wonder, like a river you couldn’t see across or a forest spreading away into shadows.

We craft and tell stories because we’ve stood on the uncertain edge between the waking world and our imagination, between enchantment and fear. And we remember other stories that help us build our own stories, scraps of lumber and fragments of narrative we gather together to make stories for ourselves.

Unsettling Wonder is about going back to that place, that troubling, entrancing glimpse into story.

8 thoughts on “Meanwhile, in Diagon Alley…

  1. I love the title, Mr. Pond, and “Unsettling Wonder” is a beautiful site. I read “The Bookishness of Fairy Tales” and “What Good Are Fairy Tales” and enjoyed them immensely. I finished the “about” page. My spine tingled from the first line, “Do you remember the first time you read a story that meant something to you?” and the last line about the “eternal now,” as the reader follows the words “to whatever unknown regions lie beyond.” There is nothing like it, that moment of entering a book, or the experience of a book that really means something to me. Books have been so important in so many of our lives. Awesome

  2. Ditto on everything that phoenixsong58 said!! Couldn’t have said it any better myself. Splendid work, as always, Mr. Pond.

    Speaking of which, what is your recollection of the first time you read a story that meant something to you?

    I want to say that for me it was Little Women (which I read in third grade), which brought Jo March into my life, but I actually think that it was Harry and Wende Devlin’s Cranberry Thanksgiving (which would have been around first grade). And I’ve just discovered, when looking for an image of CT, that there is an entire Cranberry series that I did not know about!!

    http://www.harryandwendedevlin.com/cranberry.html

    I have got to get these for my nephew and read them to him. :) CT is all about not judging a book by its cover and about true friendship.

  3. Cbiondi, I think the first book I read that really meant something to me was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, followed by all the Narnia Chronicles. And then Madeleine L’Engle’s books. I checked them out of the library over and over. And Noel Streatfield’s books like Theater Shoes and Ballet Shoes. And Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott, The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright, The Year of Jubilo by Ruth Sawyer. And Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment.

  4. Phoenixsong58–thanks! A spine-tingling ‘About’ page–not a description you hear every day. I like it!

    Carrie-Ann, my first recollections are a bit mixed, not sure which comes first. But the Arnold Lobel Uncle Elephant, which I’ve written about here, that’s one of them. Books by Richard Scarry and James Stevenson, too. When I got a bit older, it was Little Dorrit and Ivanhoe. Those are the two that really taught me to love literature. The love of fairy tales, as such, was learned from a book of short stories by Padraic Colum. And then LOTR and Smith of Wooton Major were epiphanies.

    Oh, the list can go on and on, I guess! Because that first magical reading experience isn’t necessarily a one-off. We get echoes or aftershocks of it throughout our lives, I think, when we pick up a new book and it resonates with that wide-eyed experience of wonder. Reading great art can be a continual process of epiphany. If I had to choose just one, I’d say Uncle Elephant, and all the others being variations and maturations and adaptations trying to remember that state of innocence, I guess.

  5. You are so right that it is not a one-off, Mr. Pond. As soon as the realization hits that this book is a book that seems to be written just for me, there is not only the wonder of reading it but also the “echo,” as you so aptly called it, of the first and every other experience of belonging to a book.
    I forgot to add The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett to my list of earliest books that meant something to me, books of which I’ve never forgotten my first reading experience.

  6. As I grew up in Germany, I have different books on my list. The first one that I ever read on my own was a children’s book by a Danish author, Poul Nörgaard, about a girl who had lost her mother and lived with her father and who found a surrogate family when she was nearly run over by a rich Norwegian (I think) gentleman, who turned out to be very nice and who had a daughter of the same age. I don’t know how many times I have reread this book, and I still have very fond memories of it. It also was the first in a series (the very first series I ever read), and I remember owning about half a dozen installments.

    Another book that I read a bit later when I was about eight or nine and reread countless times was “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, which my grandfather gave to me. I still remember the illustrations in that one, but I don’t have it any longer.

  7. Minerva–that’s fascinating. The German and Dutch language children’s literature market is large and very different than British or American. Though occasionally there’s crossover in translation, as with Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart. And Alice, as you say. That was another one for me, the book that impressed (or reinforced?) in my mind that children’s books can and should be sheer unbridled fun. I remember sitting in the library reading that, laughing hysterically. Leaving my poor mother to bemusedly tell my father that evening, “He was giggling in the library!”

    phoenixsong58–without wanting to get too metaphysical about this, I do think that we choose, sometimes deliberately or sometimes not, books and artistic experiences that resonate with our first, earliest, and consciously forgotten experience of wonder.

  8. Mr. Pond, I could not agree with you more about books and other art tapping into our earliest experiences of wonder, and that this is sometimes not a deliberate choice. And, along similar lines, I’ve mysteriously encountered just the book that I need in my life at just the right moment, probably hundreds of times. I know so many other people, too, who have had the perfect book fall or practically pop off the shelf in a library or bookstore. I’ve often said that as a child my higher power loved and cared for me through books and nature.

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