Friday Fictioneers : The day Chaucer beat Gramma Mags

PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria


 

Florence gazed up through the old cypress tree at a speckless sky.

The tree listed to the west, its bark wizened, branches balding. Gramma Mags had instructed Morris to cut it into logs, burn it through the blistering winter to come.

But one autumn afternoon over cucumber sandwiches and slabs of Madeira cake, Florence read from Dickens, Bunyan, Shakespeare, Chaucer until the sun set prickly through the leaves. She rubbed the trunk with pinked fingers.

‘This tree’s older than them all, Gramma.’

Gramma had nodded, pulled her shawl tight against the wind. ‘Best knit me another shawl then,’ she said.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the picture and hone your own story. See here to share, read and comment.

Notes

For those of you unfamiliar with any of the literary figures mentioned above –

Charles Dickens

John Bunyan

William Shakespeare

Geoffrey Chaucer

What Pegman Saw : A wise form of madness*


 

They grew up in neighbouring blocks, in the stone-built houses left when the rich folk deserted the Old Town for the New, exchanged crumbling laurel swags and ballustrades for reinforced concrete and steel.

They went to the same school, though never met. She was bright enough, not brilliant but hardworking, while he spent the school day picking pockets, shoplifting, in juvenile court.

As she whispered with her friends over boy band singers, he was getting his first gang tattoo – a dagger on his right cheekbone, a symbol of belonging.

Then one day, she was walking along Rose Street, he coming the other way, trousers hanging low, body hunched as if the world had climbed on his narrow shoulders. His face was slim, brows in a tight frown. The kind of boy the nervous cross the street to avoid.

On impulse, she smiled

And his world opened.


 

Written for What Pegman Saw, the writing prompt that uses Google Streetview as its starting point. See here to join the fun and to read the other stories.

The title comes from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act One, Scene One.

Three Line Tales : The rest is silence*

 

three line tales week 86: a small boy reading a book

photo by Ben White via Unsplash


 

Watching my small son sing was the best – he’d inhale so deeply, the force of his own breath would make him stand on tiptoe, gradually sinking to the ground as he sang, like a deflating balloon.

The sound wasn’t good – he’d sing whatever came into his head, regardless of the tune – but his grinning enthusiasm, that was what I loved.

I watch his chest rise and fall now, the mechanical rhythm of the ventilator in place of his own puppyish gasping. I long to take him in my arms but he’s attached to the bed with lines and drips, all the things that keep him alive.

I wish I could hear that tuneless song just once more before he goes.


Written for Sonya’s Three Line Tales. See the pic and hone a tale. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

*The title comes from the Prince of Denmark’s last words in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Brush up your Shakespeare

 

If you imagine that Shakespeare should be delivered in an accent resembling that of the Queen’s, watch on. It seems if you’d sat in the Globe Theatre in the 16th century, you would have heard something that more closely resembled Pirates of the Caribbean than The King’s Speech.

Loving it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers : For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson


 

Pristine white arches stretched over the dark corridor. The starship’s floor was warm beneath her feet, the restless air scented with plastic and engine oil. Machinery hummed – a dull, comforting throb.

She tried to control her breathing, tried not to glance into the alcoves as she followed the trail of winking lights. She knew what lay inside – egg-shaped pods, their glass lids sealed, the placid oval of a sleeping human face visible in each.

She was the last awake, the only one who’d heard the distress call from home – to know the heartbreaking truth.

‘Sleep well,’ she whispered.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the prompt photo and write a 100 word tale. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

The title comes from Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1, from the speech beginning,

To be or not to be?

W4W:The Weirdest of the Wyrd

Silhouette of witch riding a broom

Image: Pixabay

 

I was struggling to think of what word to choose for today’s Wednesday Word Tangle. Yes, I know, it’s ridiculous as English has thousands to choose from. But I needed something I’d be inspired by and I was in the mood for something other, something different … Something weird. And that’s when inspiration struck like a well-cast magic spell. Let’s see what

WEIRD 

has to offer.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, weird might now mean ‘peculiar or unusual’, but in the 14th century and later it meant ‘having the power to control fate’, from the Old English wyrd – ‘chance, destiny, the Fates’. It literally means ‘that which comes’.

The dictionary also states that our understanding of the word to mean ‘uncanny’ comes from the phrase ‘Weird Sisters’ to describe the Norns, beings from Norse mythology who controlled the destiny of man and god alike.

Does the phrase Weird Sisters sound familiar to you? Damn well hope so, because it’s from this mythology that our old pal Bill Shakespeare shaped his Three Witches in Macbeth.

If there’s any other single work of literature that’s shaped how we imagine magical ladies, I’d like to hear about it. Their sinister conversations, the use of rhyme, the way they finish each others’ sentences, as if their minds have a supernatural link, all go to making the ‘sisters’ the epitome of corrupting evil.

Shakespeare lays his stall out with these harpies as they open the play.

When shall we three meet again

In thunder, lightning or in rain?

Are there no bright, sunny days in medieval Scotland? No possiblility of meeting on a warm, balmy afternoon for a cuppa and a chin wag? Not really. These crones do like to brew up concoctions, but they’re rather more imaginative than slinging a couple of English Breakfast teabags in a pot.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

All followed by a barrowful of antacids, I should imagine.

As so often happens with Shakespeare, there is an element of currying favour with the monarchy in the play.

James I & VI came to the English throne in 1603. Macbeth was written in 1606 and features the wronged ghost Banquo – who James I was supposedly descended from. James also had a bit of an obssession with witches, having written his Daemonologie on the subject in 1597. Clever old Shakespeare, stirring all of these elements into a witch’s brew which was sure to be popular and gain him some Stewart Brownie points.

In its turn, of course, Will’s Weird Sisters inspired others. There’s a band in the Harry Potter stories called Weird Sisters (though what makes them extra odd is that they’re all men).

My favourite is the Terry Pratchett Discworld novel Wyrd Sisters which follows the witches Magrat Garlick – very wet and New Agey, prone to burning candles and wearing tassels: Granny Weatherwax – hard as her own hobnail boots, exponent of ‘headology’ and prone to riding in the minds of passing wildlife: and Nanny Ogg – terrible mother-in-law, flirt, drinker and singer of lurid songs like A Wizard’s Staff has a Knob on the End.

If any doubts remain as to whether Wyrd Sisters might be a nod to the Bard …

As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: ‘When shall we three meet again?’

There was a pause.
Finally another voice said, in far more ordinary tones: ‘Well, I can do next Tuesday.’
© Terry and Lyn Pratchett, 1988

 

 

 

Why Philip K Dick’s canon is so often plundered

ufo-782655_1920

Image : Pixabay

 

We recently signed up for Amazon Prime.

Amazon are not one of my favourite companies. Any global big business that has such a massive slice of a particular market – that has changed the way the world shops – is doing something right in monetary terms, whilst simultaneously doing something very wrong for every independant bookshop / high street retailer.

And that’s before we even approach the topic of authors’ pay, the way the company has tried to hold both publishers and authors to ransom in order to prioritise their own profits … 

A could go on, but it’s Sunday and I’m sure you have family to spend time with and dogs to walk, so I’ll shut up before I scare you away.

So why, might you ask, have I allowed this beacon of capitalism into my home? Well, you see, I live with an enormous film buff. Allow me to rephrase that. He’s not enormous – it’s the scale of his filmbuffery that’s huge. Where I squirrel away books, stealthily slipping them into the house under my coat, he does the same with DVDs. Our shelves are a mosaic of brightly coloured cardboard, paper and plastics.

Fulfilling his need for celluloid (no, I know – pixels then) used to be simple. We’d got to the cinema (we were the young couple who, early in our relationship viewed a late night double bill of The Exorcist and some schlocky horror I can’t remember – for a Valentine’s Day treat). And for home consumption there was Blockbuster.

Ah, Blockbuster. I still recall the dusty shelving, the slightly sticky carpets, the caged popcorn (two sacks for the price of one!), and their line in surly, dishevelled just-got-out-of-bed-at-11-am staff members was second to none.

What those guys couldn’t be bothered to tell you about film wasn’t worth not listening to.

Their stores may have had the air of neglected charity shops, but for a reasonable sum, you could rent any recently released DVD on the market.

Of course, Blockbuster has pretty much gone the way of Woolworths, ra-ra skirts and pedal pushers – extinct, never to be resurrected. Which has left the other half in a quandry when it comes to accessing filmage. We’ve tried Netflix, but he exhausted their range a while back, hence the move to Amazon Prime.

And on Amazon Prime we found The Man in the High Castle.

The quality of the dialogue isn’t the highest – you can almost hear the cogs grinding, it’s so clunky. And the acting … Well, there’s a lot of staring into space looking pensive and the main female character only has two expressions – shocked and blank. But it’s a high-concept, alternate history thriller, set in a 1960s America in which the Axis nations won the Second World War and the States were split between Germany and Japan – nuance is not what we’ve tuned in for.

The most surprising thing for me about The Man in the High Castle is that it’s based on a novel by Philip K. Dick. I suppose I associate Dick with full on flying car, Mars settlement, implants in the brain sci-fi .

I’m sure I’m wrong, but it seems everything that tripped from Dick’s typewriter or slipped from his pen has been adapated for the big screen: Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau, A Scanner Darkly, the rummaging through his canon for cinema fodder knows no bounds.

Which made me wonder which author holds the record for the most adaptations of their work on the big screen.

Well, I did a bit of googling and although there’s some debate on the subject, there are some names you’d expect to see – and some you really wouldn’t.

Shakespeare and Dickens are first and third – no great surprise there. Ian Fleming makes an appearance for the James Bond books, of course, along with Stephen King, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stan Lee and Robert Louis Stephenson – genre books make great movies after all.

Surprises? Well, according to this list, Anton Chekov is in at number 2. Seriously? You don’t generally see versions of The Cherry Orchard rubbing shouders with the latest Avengers movie down the local multi-plex. Moliere is also there, with 208 writer credits according to IMDb – apparently.

So, what have we learnt from this list? 

That having a long career and writing a ton of successful genre fiction is one way to adaptation success. Being a dead literary giant helps. But sometimes just writing one really good yarn – say Don Quixote if your Cervantes (101 adaptations, mainly of this one text) – can be enough.

And the other thing I’ve learned? That not all Philip K Dick adaptations are equal.

***

Have you been watching The Man in the High Castle? What do you think? Do you agree with the Slate list? Who do you think is the most regularly adapted author?

 

 

 

Penis trees and giant snails

Gorgeous Image: Paperblanks

Gorgeous Image: Paperblanks

I love an illuminated manuscript, the ornamentation, the fine details.

I like the Celtic influence that means you can have a picture of the easily led Eve plucking fruit for the equally easily led Adam, surrounded by knotwork of interlaced dragons – an Asian religion (sand, dates and fig trees) illustrated with pictures whose roots are in a frozen North (ice floes and lands of the midnight sun). That mixture appeals to me.

While we’re on the subject of Adam and Eve, can anyone tell me why Eve has been so long castigated for leading old Adam astray? Supposing the early Christian leaders were right and men were superior to women (women were after all, created from a man, right?) why is it that this superior individual, the first child of the Creator, takes no blame for man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden? If Adam was so amazing, why wasn’t he capable of saying

No, love. I think I’ll give that apple a miss, ta. There’s a melon over there with my name on it.

If Eve was a temptress, then we have to say that Adam was weak willed and none too bright.

I only ask, as the harsh judgement of Eve has impacted on women’s personal and legal rights, their rights to their own bodies, to their children, to education for … Ooh … A few thousand years and counting. Just a small thing but worth mentioning.

Back to manuscripts.

Apart from the skill, dedication and craftsmanship that manuscripts demonstrate in dead calf, iron and oak gall, they open a window into the Medieval mind in the form of marginalia. It seems that when monks were handed a book of the Bible to transcribe and illustrate, they had pretty much free reign. This meant they sometimes filled the margins with some very interesting doodles…

Rabbits firing crossbows, people relieving themselves in jugs (back and front), preaching dogs, snails with human heads, nuns picking penises out of a tree … Err, yeah, not quite sure what that’s about, but either vellum and goose quills are hallucenagens or monks channelled the creativity they might have used on more earthy pleasure into their artwork.

These rough, vulgar pictures appeal to me. They show that human minds really haven’t changed in a thousand years – give a man a margin and five minutes alone and he’ll draw a willy.

Something else that appeals to me is the book illustrated above. No, it’s not an illuminated manuscript, but a notebook* I found in W H Smiths yesterday. The cover design is based on the 8th century Lindau Gospels. To say I was tempted to buy it is an understatement.

You see, there’s a part of me that wants to pretend I’m an 8th century monk, sitting in his cell, offering up his time, his eyesight and the health of his spine to creating such a beautiful object.

I don’t think I’d be pepared to maintain a tonsure through judicious application of a pumice stone, but I might draw some creative marginalia – probably involving giant snails and a penis tree.


*The makers also produce notebooks featuring the works of Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Charlotte Bronte and F Scott Fitzgerald. Now, who could fail to be inspired by that?

This post is dedicated to Emma at Bluchickenninja and her love of stationery.