Angelica, Eliza…and Karl

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(DAISY’S NOTE: Karl has been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack non-stop for the past week, and I fear some of the lyrics may have worked their way into his writing. I’m sure the shift in his normally unimpeachable prose style is only temporary.)

Avast and ahoy!

There is, of course, nothing a bibliophile loves more than going downtown to their favorite bookstore. Therefore, dear reader, please share this post with your friends and family to remind them of their love of literary pursuits, and tell them to come to Bookmarks on Sunday, April 15th at 3:00 for a very special event.

y450-293How can a bookish, purple-clawed dragon and an octopod sufficiently applaud an author’s efforts to put a neglected figure back into the narrative of history? That is precisely the revolutionary task that L. M. Elliott has undertaken in her new book Hamilton and Peggy. This novel delves into the life of Peggy Schuyler, a figure not only written out of history but sidelined even in the musical Hamilton. Though the musical’s Peggy spends much of her time waiting in the wings, Elliott’s has an enviable front-row seat to the historical action.

How lucky you are, dear reader, to be alive right now! As a paralarva in the Kraken Cove I wished for a store, but book sales there were poor: I knew the only thing to do was swim up to the shore. I took up a collection for my passage to the mainland (though in the end most of it was funded solely by my wealthy uncle Kasterborous), and arrived last summer, another octopod swimming up from the bottom. Back then Bookmarks was in a hurricane of preparation before its July opening, its children’s section but a yellow wall. Look at where we are now, and look at where we started. To be selling books successfully would be enough, but Bookmarks will never be satisfied with that alone. Rather, the store continues passionately smashing every expectation, hosting non-stop events for young and old.

Great events are happening at Bookmarks, and should you happen to have the time to take a break on April 15, then you simply must meet us inside the store for a celebration of Hamilton, Peggy, and Hamilton and Peggy. It will be quite the meeting, for we’ve arranged the menu, the venue, the seating, and we are certain that the room where it happens will be spacious enough for a revel full of rebels.

And if you simply cannot wait for it, we advise you to buy up every book you can get your hands on about Hamilton and the Schuyler sisters, but most of all to read Ms. Elliott’s astute historical novel.

Your obedient servant,

K. Krak

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Springtime Selections: New Poems by Daisy the Dragon

 

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A Springtime Sonnet

As springtime opens flowers, I turn leaves,
Inhaling all the scents that issue forth,
The inky perfumes printed paper breathes,
My eyes move down the lines as birds fly north.
Warm, watercolored pages are now worth
Far more than winter’s pictures’ monochrome:
Their time to open now, like buds from earth,
And dust the frost and cobwebs off their tomes.
So pull them from their hibernating-homes,
From perilous piles and shelves and towering stacks.
A cover shut tight is so drearisome,
But opened, it yields lilies and lilacs.
When reading, sniffing’s worth a thousand looks;
They say to smell the flowers–I smell books!

On the Dangers of Pollen

Be careful when you crack a window
what might through it float:
the dragon’s nose is sensitive
to every mite and mote.

You would not wish to perturbate
the passage of her breath;
a single speck of pollen can
mean smoke and certain death!

For if a roguish molecule
lands lazily in her nostril,
she’ll rear her head and shut her eyes,
and sneeze out something awful.

The trail of fire her nose emits
no Kleenex can withhold,
but shall destroy all in its path,
most fearful to behold!

It burns the piles of papers that are
lying all around,
and spares no inch of store, but quickly
chars the nearby ground.

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And so in springtime dragons are
disasters soon to happen–
to think some flower’s fume
could leave entire bookstores blackened!

Three Haikus

Krakonic haikus, I’m told, go
eight, then five, and then
one more line of eight tentacles.

Dragon meter, though,
is a classic haiku style:
five, seven, and five.

Which one is better?
I say a mix is always best:
happy medium.

To a Bookstore

We dragons like to hoard things in our caves:
Gold, goblets, emeralds, frozen peas,
Books most of all, the ones that move and please,
All things that dragon hearts are wont to crave.
But hidden treasures are nothing to public good,
And they give little pleasure, truth be told;
Better to let our books be bought and sold,
Held dearer and ever wider understood.
The bookstore is the loveliest cave of all,
For it is warm and friends are found within,
Of every genus, furred and fanged and finned,
Each answering alike the readers’ call:
“Whatever your species, color, kingdom, age,
Surrender all yourself unto the page.”

 

Karl Reviews: The Footnote Menu

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Avast and ahoy!

As I’m sure you have noticed if you have stopped by Bookmarks lately, the new cafe Footnote has opened next door! I hope you have all gotten a chance to sample the snack and beverage options at Footnote, but if you have lacked the time, or if you have sampled only one or two of the items on the extensive menu and feel you have not gotten a representative taste of the full range of delicacies, fear not! For I, Karl the Kraken, have taken it upon myself to stop by Footnote every several hours for the past week, each time ordering a different menu item and recording my impressions of it for your benefit.

I am quite aware that kraken gastronomy is somewhat different from that of humans. Yet I should venture to say that my culinary taste is nearly as impeccable as my literary, and I hope that my descriptions of the foods at Footnote, though washed with a certain saltwater sensibility, will be fresh enough to wet your appetite and entice you to pay a visit and taste these treats for yourself.

footnote-homeNow, the first time I entered Footnote and ordered my favorite beverage, I was distressed to find that they did not carry it. However, Daisy helpfully explained that kelp kombucha is not nearly so popular on land as it is in the Kraken Cove, so I supposed the omission was pardonable.

I settled for ordering an earl grey tea, which was served with a miniature hourglass timer. This also caused me not-inconsiderable distress me until Daisy explained the intentions behind it. — You see, if one has spent any significant interval at sea with companions of a piratical description, one is liable to interpret having an hourglass placed on the table before one as a threat to one’s life, akin to receiving a black spot on a piece of paper or a badly drawn caricature of oneself caught in a brig and forced to cook barnacle bourguignon for a band of bantering buccaneers (both of which have been served to me in other cafes on multiple occasions). But Daisy was quick to assure me that no such message had been intended, and that the tiny device set before me was in fact a useful novelty meant to spare one the distress of overly strong tea.

It is a testament to the deliciousness of Footnote’s offerings that I quickly forgot the distress of these first few misunderstandings. A mere sip of tea and bite of muffin were enough to win me over. Of course, it is well known that among baked goods, muffins have the most soothing effect on the constitution. (After all, it is quite impossible to eat muffins in an agitated manner!) But one must not think that any old muffin could have produced the same pleasure that I experienced on that occasion, for I say truly, dear reader, that this tea and this muffin were far superior to any tea and any muffin I had tasted up to that point, whether on land or in the sea.

So delighted was I with this small snack that I returned immediately to sample more of the cafe’s items. After a few seconds’ deliberation, I decided upon a cappuccino and a cookie. I must confess that even after the revelation of the my first course, I could not imagine every item on the Footnote menu could be of such high culinary quality. Picture my surprise, then, when my first bite of cookie transported me, like the very highest of literary achievements, into another world of yet-unrealized and previously unarticulated perfections of the very essence of cookieness! It was a revelatory experience akin almost to my first time looking into Conchshell’s translation of Homer.

Need I repeat such extravagant praises for every item on the menu? Oh, but reader, how easily I could! I could spend an age extolling the comitragic balance of sweetness and spice in the chai latte, exploring the savory subplots of the sandwiches, pausing to ponder the philosophical quandaries so poignantly expressed in the macchiato, and reveling in the Hemingwayesque brevity and punch of the straight espresso. But I fear my words would fail me.

I believe many humans have acknowledged the failures of their language in describing taste. Even in my native Krakonic, though we have special words for the tang of spaghetti submarinese and the sensation of chewing algae alla carbonara, I should find myself hard-pressed to describe the infinite delights of Footnote’s pastry case.

Lest I should make your patience stale and dry by drawing out my review too long, I shall leave you only with this final word: swim, slither, sprint, or swoop as quickly as you can to Footnote, and you might stand some chance of having a snack before Daisy and I polish off the entire stock!

Bon appétit!

Karl the Kraken

Karl and Daisy Review: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

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Avast and ahoy!

I’m sure you – lover of literature that you are, dear reader – have been eagerly anticipating the premiere of the upcoming film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. All of us at Bookmarks certainly have, no matter what our species or galaxy of origin. On Sunday, February 18, Bookmarks will be hosting an event to celebrate that landmark work of literature.

Indeed, A Wrinkle in Time has so many fans here at Bookmarks that we could not settle on which of us ought to review it. Though Daisy customarily handles the science fiction and fantasy reviews, I consider the work to be especially suited to the kraken aesthetic. We have decided, therefore, not to assign the task to either one of us, but to present our review as a dialogue.

We recorded the following discussion over a snack of sandwiches and cocoa, while the wind howled threateningly outside…

Daisy: I am absolutely thrilled to be discussing A Wrinkle in Time, one of my favorite novels. I’ve loved it ever since I read it as a hatchling, and it improves with every re-reading as I’ve come to appreciate the science and symbolism of it. But you read it much more recently, didn’t you, Karl?

Karl: Yes, I read it mere months ago – on your own recommendation, of course – while I was trying to familiarize myself with the human children’s fiction tradition.

Daisy: I often wish I could read it again with new eyes and experience for the first time. So I’d love to know what your immediate reaction was when you first read it.

Karl: Oh, I was quite impressed by it. But I think it possible that you may, by no fault of your own save that of over enthusiasm, which I consider no fault at all, my dear dragon, have raised my expectations unduly. 

Daisy: Oh? How so?

Karl: When you first thrust it into my tentacle and told me I must read it at once, you claimed it was ahead of its time in its integration of complex issues into children’s literature and its visionary scientific concepts.

Daisy: Yes, and?

Karl: I am sure it is merely a consequence of species differences. For though I found the work to be delightful and fascinating, it seemed to me perfectly consistent with the conventions of kraken literature. For instance, the concept of a fifth dimension is nothing extraordinary to anyone trained in traditional krakonian physics, which has long recognized the existence of at least eight dimensions. 

Daisy: Rien n’est nouveau sous le soleil, même quand il n’y a pas de soleil. Ionesco. “There’s nothing new under the sun, even if there’s no sun.” 

Karl: As in the deep sea.

Daisy: Or outer space. But surely there must have been something new to you in such an imaginative and innovative work as this? What about the strange and intriguing alien societies that L’Engle depicts so skillfully?

Karl: Such as Ixchel, you mean?

Daisy: Exactly!

Karl: I’m afraid I find nothing odd or extraordinary about fuzzy tentacled creatures who are nurturing towards children and somewhat baffled by human society.

Daisy: But surely krakens don’t speak through their tentacles, do they?

Karl (through his tentacles): “There are more things on land and sea, my dear dragon, than are dreamt of in your science fiction.”

Daisy: Shakespeare?

Karl: An old kraken saying. You know, the character of Aunt Beast is very reminiscent of my own aunt Kendra the Kraken… But don’t get the wrong impression – I never meant to claim that the book was unoriginal. Merely that what it presents as wonders and impossibilities are only so to the human mind. It is a testament to this book’s complexity that even if it does not impress the reader with its strangeness, it remains a delightful coming-of-age novel and exploration of grand philosophical ideas.

Daisy: Very true. The thing I love most about A Wrinkle in Time is how it grapples with the problem of evil. It is a wonderful celebration of the human spirit. – Human in the largest possible sense, of course. It is very inclusive, I think, of other species. Aunt Beast, for instance, and the three star-beings.

Karl: And one must not forget Fortinbras the dog.

Daisy: I am eager to see how Fortinbras is cast in the movie. The part is so small in the book, but with the right actor the character could really come to life onscreen.

[The conversation was unfortunately broken off here, as Karl took a bite of his sandwich and was inexplicably transported across five dimensions to a planet in a distant spiral galaxy, the inhabitants of which resembled long-eared hedgehogs and lived in a benevolent thalassocracy. Karl was able to negotiate with their elders for transport back to earth, which took about a week, but, factoring in warps in the spacetime continuum due to an unexpected scone shortage on the planet Dumuzi, was only about five minutes from the perspective of earth.]

Karl (upon returning): My apologies for the interruption. Now where were we?

Daisy: You were almost finished with your sandwich.

Karl (finishing his sandwich): “Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral.” Brecht. “Feeding comes first, then comes the moral.”

Daisy: What is the moral?

Karl: That one must always consider the possibility of interdimensional travel, especially when having a snack. Also that great literature is best discussed on dark and stormy nights in the company of mythological creatures.

Daisy: May I add another moral?

Karl: Moralize ahead, dear dragon.

Daisy: “Plus de tentacles qu’on possède, plus de savoir littéraire qu’on peut offrir.” Albert Camus.

Karl: An excellent quote, though I cannot recall reading it in any of his works.

Daisy: Oh, no, this was from personal correspondence.

 

 

 

 

The Kraken Book Club

 

 

Avast and ahoy!

If, as I hope, you have been following Bookmarks’s calendar of events carefully, you will have noticed the algal proliferation of book club meetings that the Bookmarks bookstore is hosting. So various are the themes of these clubs and so well-chosen their selections, that no creature in the Winston-Salem area need despair for lack of reliable reading recommendations or companionable bibliophiles with whom to discuss them.

Yet you may hesitate, and who should blame you, dear reader? For it is always a distressing thing to take a stranger’s literary recommendations on faith, and to commit to reading and, month after month, conversing with a convention of cephalopods whose literary opinions may or may not be as impeccable as one’s own. For who would bear to listen on so regular a basis to the prattling of prawns, the chattering of characins, and the lugubrious laments of the lonely lobster, while he attempts in vain to turn the tide of the conversation to the book he has so looked forward to discussing? And who could spare the time in her busy schedule of blog posts, novel writing, and analyzing the idiosyncrasies of the human race to read each month the latest installment of Mr. Mollusk’s favorite mystery series or some vain jellyfish’s transparently autobiographical novel?

Or, even if you have not been discouraged by the dysfunctions of book clubs long since disbanded, you may say simply that you have no need of a book club. As a reader of impeccable good taste, sensitive to every subtlety of style and symbolism, you can carry on a conversation with your own discerning self as well as any arbitrary assortment of creatures could!

Allow me to use an illustration from my aquatic experiences back in the Kraken Cove. I, too, long supposed that I needed no company in reading, but was fully able to form opinions of my own without the aid of a bunch of piscine poseurs. I was, however, persuaded to enroll in such a society by my good friend Simonides the Squid. Reluctantly did I present myself at the first meeting of the Aquarian Grammarians Club, and even then only because of my love of the book we were to discuss, and the hope that I might improve the the minds of the other members.

It shook me to the very cephalic cavities to find that not only were these creatures genuine bibliophiles, but my intellectual equals! In fact, I learned far more in that book club than I did in all my years at Kraken College. I can remember even now the most stimulating of our conversations, word for word, for they have imprinted themselves upon my memory deeper with every recollection, by an edifying process of erosion. I remember how we discussed the pivotal moment of A Sojourn in the Shallows. I had been inclined to give our protagonist the benefit of the doubt, whereas my dear friend Terence the Turtle pointed to the deliberate ambiguity in the text and raised the possibility that the shipwreck could have been more intentional than accidental. I never would have dared entertain that possibility, but so persuasive were my carapaced comrade’s arguments that I was forced to see the whole book in a new light.

Another example: when we had read Jean-Francois Calmar’s book of poetry in translation, Helga the Hammerhead, who knew something of the Franco-Krakonic dialect, was able to explain the subtleties of the original to the rest of us, thus greatly enhancing our appreciation of the work. Similarly, when we took a dip into the waters of Deep Sea literature, Simonides called upon an anglerfish acquaintance to speak to us on the misunderstood peculiarities of aphotic culture.

I hope these illustrations are enough to impress upon you, my dear reader, the unexpected benefits of joining a book club. For though solitary reading is both enjoyable and enlightening, you will surely find that reading in the company of others can open your mind to a vast ocean of new perspectives. I therefore highly recommend that you look through Bookmarks’s events calendar to find the book club that interests you, and to waste no time in diving into the recommended readings and discussions. I am sure you will find it a refreshing plunge.

Yours most sincerely,

Karl the Kraken

 

 

The Dragon Reviews: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

24763621Hello all!

Daisy the Dragon here. On Tuesday, February 6, Bookmarks will be hosting the book launch for S. Jae-Jones’s Shadowsong, the sequel to the acclaimed Wintersong. If you have not read the first installment yet, I suggest you drop everything in your talons and fly straightaway to Bookmarks to buy it. If you enjoy fantasy, romance, Germanic folklore, music, or simply beautifully written books, then you will love Wintersong.

This is a book that will lure you in and keep you in its thrall from page one to the very end. It will linger with you long after you have finished, like the tune of an unfinished sonata echoing through an underground grotto. To open its cover is to sink into a world of shadow and mystery where darkness lurks around every labyrinthine twist and turn.

But do not turn your head and push away this book if you are among those dragons who fear
the dark and avoid making their nests in caves, preferring the airy brightness of the mountaintop or the window-lit back section of a nonprofit bookstore. Do not say, ‘Why, this book is not for me!’ because you fear it will depress your natural good spirits, cause your tail to droop, or wipe the winning smile from your snout. This book, though dark, is never gloomy, and though it breaks the heart, it mends the soul.

It is, above all, the story of a young woman’s recognition of her own talents. Our heroine,  Elisabeth Vogler, is a brilliant musical composer, yet her low birth and her gender have kept her from matching her skill with ambition. The reader need not be an innkeeper’s daughter in turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Bavaria to understand how great artistic genius can often go unrecognized. How many young dragons, driven by an urge to write sprawling fantasy epics with cleverly alliterated character names, are nevertheless forced by their parents to attend Dragon Academy, where they idle away the day honing their fire-breathing and treasure-hoarding skills, rather than the creative writing program at the Fangorn Institute for Reptilian Education where, if it had been up to them, they would have gone, and where they might have learned to refine their prose and not write sentences that run as long as the tail of a Senegalese Snagtooth? But I must not linger on those painful memories…

Suffice to say, I connected immediately with Elisabeth and followed her complex emotional journey through the novel as if it were my own. I will refrain from spoiling its ending, but I will say that I look forward to watching Elisabeth’s growth as an artist and her command of her own talents develop further in the sequel.

Of course, Elisabeth is not the only character whose tale of self-discovery cannot fail to capture the hearts and minds of readers. The handsome and charismatic Goblin King first appears cloaked (literally and figuratively) in mystery, but turns out to contain multitudes. At various points he plays villain, hero, trickster, lover, martyr, and muse. I must not give away too much of the mystery, but I must praise the way his character twines together such contradictory strands of the mortal and the mythical. Even after four hundred pages, the reader feels she has much to learn about this man (if man he be), but that she would undoubtedly accept his invitation to a Goblin Ball, especially if strawberries and chocolate torte were to be served.

All in all, I found Wintersong to be a magnificent novel, and I would gladly sacrifice my sister and my life’s work to guarantee the swift arrival of its sequel.

Yours truly,

Daisy the Dragon

 

The Kraken Responds (1-12-2018)

Avast and ahoy!

As promised, Daisy and I are beginning the year by answering some readers’ questions and queries, especially those from fellow mythological creatures. Without further ado, here are some of the letters we’ve received:

 

Dear Karl,

Love your blog! I too am a young kraken with literary inclinations (though I would not venture to say that my literary taste is as impeccable as yours), and I greatly appreciate how you’ve given voice to the aquatic literary community. I am considering coming ashore to try my tentacle at working at a mainland bookstore, but I’m a little apprehensive towards the idea of launching myself into human culture with little prior experience of the species. Are there any books you would recommend that might give me insight into the thought and customs of homo sapiens?

Yours sincerely,

Katie the Kraken

 

Avast and ahoy there, Katie!

I am overjoyed to hear that I have fans in the kraken community, and that my blog has proved an inspiration to the next generation of mythological cephalopods. If indeed you do choose to move inland, I am sure there will be a period of adjustment in which you will feel quite bewildered by humanity in all its bipedal confusion. However, I have grown to have a great admiration for the species, regardless of its faults.

If you are looking for some good entry points into human literature, I would suggest some of the classics that have strong aquatic themes. For instance, Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, both of which are standard reading in the human education system. It would, however, be ill-advised for you to take current bestsellers as accurate portrayals of human behavior. The wildly popular Harry Potter series, though delightful, will give you all sorts of misinformation about the norms of human society. (After finishing the series I searched in vain at all the local grocery stores for butterbeer, pumpkin juice, and chocolate frogs, and my attempts to make small talk about the latest quidditch scores were met with puzzled looks.)

As for literature that accurately portrays the essence of human nature, I believe most of the classics point either to the capacity for self-delusion or to a certain hubristic tendency as the defining features of the species . However, after about a year of close observation, I have found that neither of these compares in importance to the human tendency to care deeply and work tirelessly for things that give them no reward.

9780143131618This is especially evident in humanity’s relationship to its cats. If you have had no prior experience with cats, let me warn you, they are the most egotistical and temperamental of land animals. Humans will tell you that they have “domesticated” the cat over thousands of years, but in fact they have done nothing but spoil the beasts. And yet humanity continues to be so utterly fascinated with cats that they enter willingly into servitude for them, and the World Wide Web, the primary tool for global communication, has been overrun by videos of felines. I think the book Total Cat Mojo by one Jackson Galaxy may be the best encapsulation of human nature that I have yet read, for it reflects the absurd lengths to which humans will go to maintain good relations with their cats.

51-YrSXi95LAnother book that accurately portrays how humans will lovingly engage in the most Sisyphean of tasks is Karel Čapek’s The Gardener’s Year. This work is nearly ninety years old, but it has been republished in a series on gardening by the Modern Library, a human publishing house. Here, in prose and pictures, one can see the care and energy that humans will invest in their gardens, even though the seasonal changes are as dramatic on dry land as they are in the ocean and will dry the soil, freeze the newly grown tendrils, and scorch the gardener’s upturned backside. Not only will Čapek help you understand this key element of human nature, but will help you appreciate its true beauty, however ridiculous it may appear at first.

All the best of luck!

Yours sincerely,

Karl the Kraken

***

Dear Daisy,

I have been a big fan of your writing ever since the first Fiona the Fire-Breather book came out. I was thrilled to hear that you were working on a new series with The Queens of Dragoria, but I know it may not be published for a while. Are there any similar books you would recommend to keep me entertained while I wait for yours to come out?

Thank you! 

Selina the Salamander

 

Dear Selina,

Thank you for the lovely note. I always love hearing from my adoring fans!

Unfortunately, I’ve hit another snag in the Queens of Dragoria writing process. My editor sent back my draft of the ninth through sixteenth chapters and pointed out that on page 550 I reveal that the Prince Regent of the Mountain Kingdom was married to the second cousin of Morlog the Magnificent. But on page 331 and again on page 415, I did not mention that the coat of arms of Manetho, exiled duke of the Mountain of Mysterious Megafauna, included a guilloche motif, which would indicate intermarriage between his uncle and a member of the imperial court. So either I have to spoil the surprise of the Prince’s relation to Morlog, or I have to come up with some reason why Manetho did not include a guilloche on his standard.

Such are the trials and tribulations of authorship.

darkershademagic_comp.jpgBut anyway, to answer your question: it can be difficult to find books in human stores that appeal to a dragonian sensibility, but if you look hard enough you’ll find them. V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series is a good example of the dragonian style in human fiction, as it features portals to alternate dimensions and wannabe pirates, both of which are common tropes in dragon literature. If you enjoy the dynastic intrigues of The Queens of Dragoria, you may wish to read some history. One of the finest works of historiography that I have read recently is Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, which gives a much fuller picture of the Napoleonic wars than most human accounts.

Happy reading!

Yours,

Daisy the Dragon