Temples for the Literary Pilgrim – The New York Times

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Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales

With a planned visit to Iceland early in the diary for early next year, I could not resist picking up this book when I found it. The very next day, someone tweeted ‘Eight things to know about Iceland before you visit’, the first of which was that some people still believe in elves. I am very interested in mythology and its persistence in and adaption to modern life. The other night I caught the end of a programme about Ireland where someone was proudly announcing that a new road had been diverted round a fairy tree so as not to upset them.


The book was first published in Iceland in 1987 and the English translation in 2000. It was derived from a collection by a 19th century folklorist who had recorded many stories preserved in oral tradition. In addition to elves, there are chapters on Ghosts and Sorcerers, Saints and Sinners and a miscellaneous section with tales about serpents, giants, an ogress and others. It is illustrated with black and white drawings by Kjartan Gudjónsson.  I will be interested to see how many are still detectable on my visit.

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Merits of Reading (e)Books – CONFESSIONS OF A READAHOLIC

Having a book to read on the fly is a wonderful advantage that an ebook reading application or an eReader provides. In this digital age, we are doing it wrong if we are mingling with thought of “Eb…

Source: Merits of Reading (e)Books – CONFESSIONS OF A READAHOLIC

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Red - 1

Terry Tempest Williams’ book has accompanied me for part of my transcontinental journey across the USA. I found it in a bookshop in Wooster, Ohio and it has stayed with me now that we have reached the Pacific coast. She lives in and writes about the southern Utah desert; red being the predominant colour of the landscape. Our journey was limited to passing through northern Utah but I certainly want to explore the southern canyons at some point. At various points in our journey the landscape was red but only briefly, before the geology changed and in Northern Utah the white of salt is predominant. Much of the land in the American West is in public hands as protected wilderness and this brings tensions with those individuals trying to eke out a living in and alongside this environment where only small amounts of the territory are in private hands. This is unlike national parks in the UK, where people do live and work. She explores the meaning of wilderness to herself, others she knows and also to the Navajo and other tribes of the surrounding area. Her discussions around the language of the colour chime with my interest as an artist. This book will stay with me and I hope return to Utah with me one day.

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Story of the Heavens

Astronomy was on my mind last night as I attempted to photograph the full ‘strawberry’ moon which has coincided with the summer solstice for the first time in 50 years. The name was coined by the Algonquin tribes of North America who believed June’s full moon signalled the beginning of the strawberry picking season. It certainly has for me as I picked the first few alpine strawberries yesterday. Unfortunately there was too much cloud  in the evening and the moon disappeared behind it. Apparently I will have to wait until June 21, 2062 to see it again if I will live long enough.

I found this book by Sir Robert Stawell Hall some time ago. It was published in 1893 and has chapters on the astronomical observatory, the sun, moon, solar system, gravitation. the planets (excluding pluto which had yet to be discovered), stars and much more. It has wonderful marbled endpapers, numerous black and white drawings and charts and a few colour plates. It is quite beautiful and I will keep dipping into it for some time to come.IMG_0362Saturn 21 Jun 2016-1IMG_0367

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The Romance of Electricity

We are so dependent upon electricity and although I am trying to reduce my use and have solar panels on the roof, it is not something I associate with the word ‘romance’. Published in 1893 by the Religious Tract Society, John Munro’s The Romance of Electricity addresses both natural processes as well as modern (at that time) electrical developments in non-technical language.

Romance of Electricity 20 May 2016-1There are over 50 black and white drawings and diagrams. The first, opposite the title page is a photograph of lightning which made me think about photographing that phenomenon. The first seven chapters describe natural phenomena including thunder and lightning, St Elmo’s Fire, fireballs, the aurora and electricity in living creatures. He then goes on to discuss the ‘curiosities’ of the telephone, microphone and electric light and others, ending by speculating on the future. It is an interesting insight into something we now take for granted.

Romance of Electricity Picture 1 20 May 2016-1

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My travels have kept me away from the shop in the last couple of weeks. The last time I was in, this book attracted me. Over 10 years ago, my experience of sound and listening changed as I had developed a central auditory processing disorder. This leads to a difficulty perceiving speech when there is background noise. I have learnt to lip read a little but of course this is not an option on the telephone and the need to focus on speech so much when I am listening to someone talking has often led to accidents so I have had to learn not to multi-task when I am listening to speech. Bilateral tinnitus means that silence is an experience lost to me. NNoise 27 Apr 2016-1ot being able to filter out background noise does mean that it is a little like having a hyperacusis for non-speech sounds and hearing a pin drop is not a problem.  Some people find it hard to understand why I cannot hear what they are saying but can hear a distant sound. Fortunately the pathways in the brain for processing music are unaffected as I am a musician. Foreign languages are easier to understand as there is a musicality to them which I pick up. I missed David Hendy’s radio series so will enjoy reading his book which is also a social history, very much.

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