Monday, December 8, 2008

Birdsong and Books

I am listening to a radio broadcast of Messiaen’s birdsongs set to music, and thinking of working at the Hampshire Typothetae in Northampton, Massachusetts, round about 1980. It reminded me of listening to the Morning Pro Musica radio broadcasts of the late, great Robert J. Lurtsema, which always began with a very long recording of natural birdsong. I remember listening to Robert J’s best gravelly baritone introducing Ravi Shankar ragas while snow fell outside the printing studio and we all (printmaker Barry Moser, poet Chase Twitchell, master printer Harold McGrath) drank coffee and played Pitch. Magical company and magical times for a 19-year-old Smith College sophomore. I mostly distributed type (de-composed the type and put it away), swept the floors, and made coffee --and felt very, very lucky to be there.

Moser was working then finishing his Pennyroyal Press edition of Alice in Wonderland and beginning work on Moby Dick. I was interning at the Typothetae one or twice a week, as I recall, and working for Ruth Mortimer in the Smith College Rare Book room. All those rare books and letterpress arcana worked their way in to the books of my Spellkey fantasies, especially the final book The Books of the Keepers.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Time Lords

Has anyone else noticed some parallels between the Old Ones in Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising sequence and the Time Lords of the Doctor Who universe? The connection came to me listening to the audiobook of Silver on the Tree with the Budza. I could quite happily listen to Alex Jennings read the phone book.

My friends keep telling me I need an Intervention for my Doctor Who problem, which is really not a Doctor Who problem but a David Tennant problem. It's keeping me off the streets, true, but also keeping me away from other things I could and should be doing. But it feeds the Muse.

But in a completely different way than the Cooper does. I sink into her stories like a stone, always marveling at the command of language, the perfect pitch, the perfect marriage of closely observed family life on the one hand, and mind-boggling magical cosmology on the other. No one does supernatural scary quite like Susan Cooper, except possibly the late, great Martin Booth.