folklore

Loving and Listening to LORE Podcast

I am an unabashed lover of podcasts (I think I’m not alone in this sentiment). Although, I am very picky. I only listen to a few and I think I’ve boiled down what makes me automatically lose interest in so many: 1) bad recording equipment, 2) the host’s voice, and 3) lack of storytelling abilities or the simple but crucial talent of being able to keep a conversation going.

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For a few months, I’ve had the newish Lore queued up and ready to go, but because of my aforementioned hesitance to new listening options, I sadly let it sit.

But as I was trying to de-stress yesterday, I slipped into a warm bath and began to listen.

Aaron Mahnke, a writer himself of the supernatural, produces and hosts this really excellent endeavor. Besides avoiding the above mentioned technical curmudgeony, Mahnke clearly does research for each episode’s topic. They last roughly 15-20 minutes and are released every two weeks (I will be impatient once I’ve caught up and realize I have to wait… impatient child, I can be). The lore which the podcast is titled from is both clearly documented events and the peripheral monsters that we don’t quiet see clearly.

What had me first going was that I found out that Mahnke covered the 19th Century New England vampire panic I had just recently read about, along with the lycanthropic tendencies of a wealthy German farmer. He investigates what goes bump and glows in the forest or the persistent infatuation we have with mental asylum (one episodes covers the institution that HP Lovecraft was influenced by).

The podcast creates a mood. The stories are told without glorifying the macabre and squeezing out bloody details like a tabloid (although, there is plenty of unpleasant and gory happenings).

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As of this typing, I’ve breezed through about eight episodes so far. I just did some internet sleuthing on Aaron Mahnke and he has a few novels published (As a lover of the strange and scary things forests can hold, I am particularly curious about his 2014 book Consumed).

Has anyone else listened to Lore? Any other suggestions? I also am keen on Bookfight, Serial, The Bugle, How Did This Get Made, and the occasional This American Life. I’ve tried giving Welcome to Night Vale a chance, but more often than not, I find it tedious which definitely outweighs the fewer amusing bits. I have also sadly given up on This is Horror, because of the host’s voice; I know, I’m awful but I just can’t do it.

post script I use Podcruncher on my phone, but Lore is also available to listen to straight on the website.

post post script For those interested in the podcast but are deaf or hard of hearing, Aaron Mahnke does the brilliant thing of posting transcripts. (I had a acquaintance in grad school who was deaf and I remember her lamenting the fact that she often couldn’t access certain podcasts because of the lack of transcripts).

post post post script I have never once cared about the music played on a podcast and couldn’t care less when the hosts gives this info, but the music here is truly wonderful and he offers the list for every episode.

The Man in the Woods by Shirley Jackson

Although, passing away in 1965, the exquisite author Shirley Jackson still persists as one of our great 20th Century American writers. Even after her death, she leaves us with many unpublished works. Her adult children have been wading through all of her papers and unpublished stories have been found. Last year, the New Yorker magazine ran a previously unknown story called, “Paranoia.” With this week’s issue, a story taking root in mythology and fairy tale was published. This new Shirley Jackson story is called, “The Man in the Woods.” It is also available to read in its entirety online.

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Admittedly, the story reads like an early draft. It is indeed short and the ending is lacking the hard resonance that Jackson’s other works released during her lifetime have. The final sentences give a glimpse, however, to the tone and path she wanted to take. With that all said, “The Man in the Woods” doesn’t disappoint.

It is a short story that unleashes a lingering terror from the first page. Shirley Jackson was always wonderful at making the reader feel on edge without being blunt. Christopher is compelled to start walking into the woods out of the mere fact that he has nothing better to do. He is joined by a nameless cat who Christopher playfully asks, “Where we going, fellow? Any ideas?” As he continues on into the woods, Christopher finds himself at a crossroads, not sure which path to take. Jackson sets up a story that feels very familiar in the realm of fairy tales (well, the kind of fairy tales that really are horror stories with grim outcomes and any notion of “fairy” is wholly misleading). Christopher comes upon a small stone cottage where a trio of mysterious people live. The occupants are strange with their speech and they are not completely able to pick up on the humor in casual conversation.

Regardless of the draft quality of the story, I am still delighted by Jackson’s ability to construct a foreboding environment. She clearly is taking a cue from fairy tales and folk myths (one character’s name is possibly Circe; what this tells the reader about her, though, can be debated). It is this enigmatic quality of the narrative that is the big draw.

When you’re done taking a peek, the New Yorker also included an interview with Shirley Jackson’s son about discovering her unpublished stories and other topics.

Burning Girls by Veronica Schanoes

“I looked up at the flame-filled windows. There was no more jumping now. ‘I’m sorry, Mama,’ I whispered. I wept while the building flamed with girls burning, burning here in America.”

Veronica Schanoes’ novella is a bundled story mixed with religious mythos and folktale with a dash of immigrant journey. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, Deborah lives with her family in the Polish town of Bialystock. As she and her sister Shayna grow up, they are each trained in different disciplines: Shayna, learning to sew from their mother and Deborah is sent to spend months with their grandmother, their bubbe, to learn an entirely different trade.

At first, the reader is led to believe that Deborah is learning the ways of midwifery. However, soon the reader learns that something much darker is happening. With the guidance of her bubbe, Deborah becomes a vanquisher of demons, the ancient lilit who comes for unholy purposes. The years go on and Deborah becomes much better at her job, but when Cossacks kill her grandmother, her family’s well-being becomes much more tenuous. The Jewish Quarter is under both the threat of the lilit and the very historical violence that comes with European antisemitism. She found her grandmother’s “village’s houses destroyed. Just cottages, built of mud and straw. Easy to kick apart. Easier to burn.” It is now up to Deborah to keep them all safe, including their newborn brother, who the lilit is intent on taking away.

The novella shifts from the past to a few years later when the two sisters settle in the immigrant NYC neighborhood of the Lower East Side. They find jobs as seamstress in a factory and everything seems shifted back to “the real,” but soon what haunted them back in the Old Country has found them in their new lives, where people work through the Sabbath and even eat ham sandwiches because they’re hungry.

Burning Girls blends the stories of the Old World with its talismans and amulets with that of the New World, which is filled with factories and progress and no time for gripping to the old beliefs. Deborah and Shayna hope that even with the loss of their entire family, the demons of old won’t reach them in America. These demons, of course, are taken both literally and figuratively. The lilit comes for every generation of Deborah and Shayna’s family. Schanoes takes a famous German fairy tale and spins something new without losing the essence of the original (I shall not tell you which märchen it is and spoil the novella!).

At times, I thought the backstory was a little rushed but that could probably be attributed to the narrator’s desire to get to the immediate action at hand. Although, I wish a little slowing down could have happened on the author’s part, because everything is so connected and I was happy to have highlighted earlier bits to remind myself.

The idea that, no matter where you are, the past will always be there is very present in Burning Girls. The young women escape their tormentors and lost home to come to the shining America we all like to imagine, but their notions of new and leaving the old behind are upended. Deborah is especially reaching to the past to survive in their new home in the Lower East Side (a place notoriously filled with slums and terrible working conditions). What I liked most about Burning Girls was Schanoes’ weave of fantasy and history. The deadly fire of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory is a horrifying and poignant moment in the novella, and the terror of this tragedy has been included in the recursive nature of Deborah and Shayna’s lives. By doing so, Schanoes has created a new myth for this historical event.

At first, Burning Girls appears simple with its direct language and swift action, but what Veronica Schanoes has here is a work that is vivid, making the images and characters stand out in my imagination.

Fire–a motif that runs throughout–often denotes the end of one generation’s story through their destruction. The characters keep running, trying to survive the demons that are out to get them and no one is safe. Deborah can’t seem to outrun the fire that chases her, but she tries with the help of the ways of both the Old and New Country, her sister, and the confidantes she finds on her way.

Burning Girls has just been nominated for a Nebula Award – For Best Novella. The publisher has now made it available for free.

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I love unique and striking book cover art. The artists who did the cover of Burning Girls are the Italian twins, Anna and Elena Balbusso. They have more fantastical illustrations on their website and Veronica Schanoes has revealed their new cover for her next published work, Among the Thorns, which is another re-imagining of a Grimm tale.

Things I Liked This Month: February

This post comes from the feelings I had included in an earlier post titled, “Bookishly Me.” One of the points was about how I was feeling a bit underwhelmed by book trends, reviews, and blogging. So, instead of wallowing in some sort of Medieval pit of despair that only the internet can provide, I’ve decided on a sort of “wrap-up.” Here is a collection of Things I Liked This Month: February Edition.

Besides the above illustration, this digest (in no particular order) includes posts from bloggers that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in February, my favorite things from Acid Free Pulp, and other bric-a-brac that I’ve collected from this month.

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I recently re-watched French short film, Entr’act, from 1922 that I wrote a dreadful paper on when I was a college student. I always really liked it and have watched it many, many times. You should, too. It can be viewed in its entirety on Youtube.

The Public Domain Review shared “A Relation of an Extraordinary Sleepy Person (ca.1698),” which is a “Royal Society paper delivered by Dr William Oliver describing a bizarre case he encountered of a man who fell into a ‘profound sleep’ from which no-one could wake him for a full month.”

It was loads of fun writing a most recent post titled, “Storytelling: True Detective and The King in Yellow.” If you haven’t seen the show or read the book, now is the time. Amazon lists the book as #1 Bestseller in Classic Literature & Fiction.

Nina at Multo(Ghost) wrote a post about “The Spectre Girl,” a 19th Century short story utilizing the woman in white lore. I always love all of her posts, but I am a fan of folklore, campfire stories, and white ladies, so this one especially stood out to me. It also is personally poignant as I have just watched my first episode of Supernatural and a ghostly white lady was the central plot.

The streets of Kiev are filled with violence and protest, but in an unexpected change of pace, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published photos of Ukrainian artists taking to the streets to create art. Check the rest out here.

If you need a mental health break today, take a look at the comments section for the post, “‘Beyond the Door’ by Philip K. Dick.” Watch some Twilight Zone and goof off. There are a couple of good recs left in the comments.

“What Did It Mean to be a Female Detective in the Nineteenth Century?” is bookwormchatterbox’s most recent post and she delves into the genre and highlights specific examples. Read it. It’s well-thought out and easily accessible for anyone interested in the origins of the modern sleuth and how female literary detectives were often overshadowed by others like Sherlock Holmes.

Celebrating the 200th Post at Acid Free Pulp

How exciting! Yesterday marked the 200th post on Acid Free Pulp. In celebration (and because it’s Friday and time to goof off), I’ve compiled some bookish bric-a-brac for your perusing. Here are some internet finds that I’m finding amusing–or self-indulgent–today. Enjoy!

  1. If you haven’t had your daily dose (or any dose) of German poetry in English translation, I recently put up a new one on my personal project, Translations of Dead German Poets. Haven’t heard of avant-garde poet Else Lasker-Schüler? Well, now you have!
  2. This morning, I read a Q&A with debut novelist Yangsze Choo about her new book The Ghost Bride, which finds its inspiration in Chinese folklore about a woman who is asked to become the wife of a dead man. I’m excited and you should be, too.
  3. Short stories need to make a comeback and I’m a huge proponent of making the push for commuters (trains, bus types) finding the joy in the medium. Here is a list with links to the stories included of classic stories by Margaret Atwood, Grace Paley, Ernest Hemingway, Ray Bradbury and more for your short reading pleasure.
  4. If you didn’t catch JJ Abrams talking about the new book on the Colbert Report last night, you need to watch the clip. Co-written with novelist Doug Dorst, S looks super rad and I just want to touch it. Take a look at the photos on Amazon. It seems like some sort of mash-up of BS Johnson and  Mark Z. Danielewski. Me want!
  5. A new art project in London is designing city book benches inspired by such classics as The Wind in the Willows and 1984. The project hopes to raise enough funds for 50-70 BookBenches. Check the photos here.

‡For an honorable mention (or dishonorable?), I point you to this strange and cringeworthy news article. After reading it, I thought, “What poor book was he using?” Librarians and  book lovers, alike, beware….

Have any Friday fun to share? Please leave your finds in the comments.