An Introduction to Fairy Tales by the National Theatre

February 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Happy to have come across this video on Twitter — I had missed it when it was posted by the National Theatre last August, but the authors and scholars interviewed have some really great things to say about what a fairy tale is, and how folk tales and fairy tales differ, but both have the same draw for readers. Also, I just love Philip Pullman.

The film was made by the National Theatre in London for its “Theatrical Context” YouTube channel, where there are some other great gems illuminating the figures and concepts behind the theater’s current shows. “An Introduction to Fairy Tales” provides some context for the National Theatre’s current production of The Light Princess, a new musical based on the 1864 book by George MacDonald, adapted by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson. MacDonald is also well known for his novel At The Back of the North Wind, published in 1871. He was a major influence on the genre of literary fairy tales in the Victorian era, and writers such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien cited his books as an inspiration to them. For Maurice Sendak fans, a beautiful edition of The Light Princess was illustrated by Sendak in 1969, and still remains in some sort of available print today (though you stand a good chance of happening across a copy in a used book store–I seem to spot it and The Golden Key, another MacDonald-Sendak edition, in almost every one I go to).

Let me here just fangirl out for a moment: Tori Amos and fairy tales! My nineties heart sings. Here’s Amos interviewed by the Evening Standard about the musical:


Google Doodles for Maurice Sendak’s 85th

June 10, 2013 § 1 Comment

Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, Outside Over There, My Brother’s Book and so many, many more, would have been 85 today. He died last May from complications from a stroke. In honor of his birthday, Google threw him a Doodle party. Make sure to check out the animation on Google’s home page today, but here are some screen shots to share the fun:


« Read the rest of this entry »

Exit Sendak, Pursued by a Bear: “My Brother’s Book”

January 11, 2013 § 5 Comments

In a now-infamous and oft-quoted NPR interview with Terry Gross in 2011, Maurice Sendak mentioned that he was writing a poem about a nose, and that it didn’t matter if no one understood it.

cn_image.size.maurice-sendak“I’m working for myself at this point,” he said. “This time is for me, and for me alone.”

“I’ve always wanted to write a poem about a nose, but you know…sort of a ludicrous subject,” he continued. “When I was younger, I was afraid of something that didn’t make a lot of sense but time went on, and you don’t have to worry about (your work not making sense to other people). It doesn’t matter.”

He was being completely serious. He was writing a poem about a nose.

His brother Jack’s nose, in fact.

Jack Sendak died on February 3rd, 1995. Now, less than a year after Maurice’s death, My Brother’s Book, his last completed work, is being published. The slim little book is an illustrated poem by Maurice about his brother’s death, and his own journey through grief. « Read the rest of this entry »

My Letter to Maurice

May 8, 2012 § 4 Comments

In November 2010, we were hearing, almost every day, that “Things Get Better.” Dan Savage’s campaign to empower and comfort homosexual teens had taken off, and around the world, people were taking to the web to reach out and tell children, essentially, that their fears and their anxieties were founded, but that who they were–and are–is worth fighting through those fears for.

I don’t remember why, specifically, Sendak was on my mind then. But Sendak has often been on my mind. Somehow the whole “It Gets Better” phenomenon made me think of him, and his partner, Eugene, who had recently passed away. Sendak’s parents, of course, had also passed away some time earlier, and Sendak had, in the years since, let it be known that he was gay, and always had been. He and Eugene, whom his parents had never known to be Sendak’s partner, had been together for decades. Sendak had never come out to them.

So, in November 2010, I wrote him a letter.

I sent it.
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Maurice Sendak Has Died

May 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Maurice Sendak died this morning of complications from a recent stroke.

In 1981, he’d written in his journal that “death has the face of Mozart, and is my waiting friend.”

You can read the entire obit at the New York Times here.

“‘The Little Mermaid’ Molded My Idea of Love,” and Other Terrifying Inanities

February 22, 2012 § 4 Comments

This post has been in the making for two months. At first, I didn’t write it because it seemed petty—but the thing that started this long indecision, the errant article published online by someone who clearly just doesn’t know any better, has stuck with me for weeks, and I’ve figured out, finally, why.

Here’s what started it: this article, written by no one I’ve ever heard of on a site I am not familiar with:

Looks to be a pretty cheaply written entertainment site, somehow affiliated with TMZ and the like. The article in question is written by someone named Lindsey P, who is very upset about Julia Leigh’s new film, Sleeping Beauty, which casts Emily Browning as a sex worker who enters a drug-induced sleep every night, only to have men do what they will with her after she’s passed out. Nobody is trying to pass this off as rated G material, but Lindsey P is up in arms nonetheless:

I think it’s pretty ridiculous that there are directors out there who want to add these dark and gloomy tones to classic happy Disney movies. Do they not realize that there will be little girls and maybe even boys out there who want to see their favorite princess have the overly joyful happy ending with the handsome prince on their arm? At this point, no childhood memory is safe!


Lindsey P’s argument is that filmmakers should at least re-name these “twisted and gloomy” films, so that poor, naïve children won’t get fooled thinking that they’re the “classic Disney princess movies” that we all KNOW are the originals. Those crazy filmmakers! What do they think they’re doing, using Disney stories this way? Oh woe, woe is Lindsey P.

And upon my first read, I just laughed it off. (Well, laughed it off and left a comment, because we all have our weaker moments, don’t we?) This is probably some high school student, trying to write a persuasive piece for the first time, and somebody showed her how to upload it to a site, I thought. Who cares?

But as I tried to go on about my life in the following weeks, the article kept popping into my head, aggravating and infuriating me. I found myself wanting to throttle Lindsey P, to give her a good talking to. Why? I kept asking myself. So someone wrote a badly written, conservative essay and it’s online. If that gets you every time, you’ll be dead of stress before you hit 30.

But it kept coming back, and each time I realized that I was thinking about this article, I’d get angrier and angrier. Finally I had to ask myself: what is it about this article in particular, this girl’s problem with fairy tales that has your goat held so firmly by the leg?

When I went back and read over the offending piece again, I found what had stuck in my craw, so to speak. Here’s the choice tidbit:

When I was a young girl, I looked towards fairy tales to mold my idea of love. They were what I wished for myself when it came to falling in love and learning about life… I wanted to be like Ariel, not only so I could swim and have cute fishes and a lobster as friends, but so I could meet a handsome young prince to sweep me off my feet. What girl wouldn’t want a love like that?

You guys.

She’s saying that The Little Mermaid taught her everything she wants to know about love and life.

There is no hope left for humanity. « Read the rest of this entry »

I Saw Esau: A Christmas Present for People Who Hate Having Their Books Stolen by Jerks

December 31, 2011 § 6 Comments

Once upon a time–or maybe just this past summer–I lent my apartment to someone in exchange for her feeding my two cats while I went on vacation. I returned home to find my bookshelf mysteriously plundered, and my friend nowhere in sight.

Now, forty books (yes, FORTY, she made three trips to the used book store, I found out) may not seem like much when held against, oh, murder. Rape. Someone taking it upon themselves to spank your kid. But OH to me, HELL HAD NO FURY.

After many a desperate phone call and an arrest for an unrelated issue, I got all of my books back, (along with a dandy security camera photo of this friend selling MY BABIES, which I’m thinking would make a nice make-your-own-jigsaw puzzle to send piece by piece in the mail to her should she ever try to contact me again). So, a happy ending there.

But perhaps the whole strange situation could have been avoided if I had already had I Saw Esau in my possession. I Saw Esau is a gem of a book, chock full of nursery and playground rhymes edited by Peter and Iona Opie and illustrated by the great Maurice Sendak. No Mother Goose here: I Saw Esau contains rhymes both innocent and malicious, curated, numbered and labelled by editors whose compassion for childhood’s nasty bits is matched perfectly by Sendak’s mischievous illustrations. « Read the rest of this entry »

On the Opportunity of Losing a Job, Maurice Sendak, and the Book That Told Me What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

November 14, 2011 § 4 Comments

My post-grad existence here in Poughkeepsie has been chugging along at a pace that some might describe as slow–at times, infuriatingly, depressingly slow. But through all the form email responses, the inevitable let-down follow up calls, the blind wandering through Craig’s List in the search of something that might give me a tad more satisfaction than asking how you like your steak cooked, I at least had the comfort of knowing that I was lucky to have a restaurant job, that I was good at it, and that that, at least, meant that I was doing my part to contribute to my little household, and to the economy at large.

Alas, no longer.

The restaurant and I have parted ways, and though I could go into the specifics and describe the unfair shock of being fired by the owner, in a blind rage, for advising another server to check into the legality of an issue that she was having with said owner, I won’t (at least, not anymore than I just did). Because in the end, getting fired from certain places can be a very good thing, and I won’t downplay the opportunity at hand by ranting.

Yes, I like making the monies. Yes, I need to make the monies. I have my part of the rent to pay, and both Sallie Mae and Direct Loans are poised to huff, puff, and blow down my door.

Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty stressed out about it in general.

But here’s the thing about working two jobs and an internship while still trying to keep sending out story submissions and applications for publishing and writing jobs, and stay on top of your own writing: you can’t.

You can’t do it all. I don’t know what Wonder Woman version of myself got through grad school for me, but she doesn’t live here anymore, and regular old Cate needs a break. She needs to re-group, to see her boyfriend before 9 o’clock of an evening (which never happened while she was employed at the restaurant), and she needs to think seriously about what she really wants to be when she grows up. « Read the rest of this entry »

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