Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Charles De Lint & Me

Through the years I have had two authors whose work I was totally enamored with.  One I outgrew in my twenties, Piers Anthony, the other I still follow today, Charles de Lint.  Usually in the Pop Culture and Me retrospectives I got through what years things happened.  I do not remember exact dates I will try to get it as close to the period.  Warning: folks this may be spoiler heavy depending on your definition.  I personally do not get upset about spoilers, it is the journey that matters not the destination.  It all started in 1994 Moonheart.  I had found its sequel Spiritwalk, but would not read it till I got the first book.  I finally found a new edition in 94.  Its idea that magic is still here in the modern era if we just know where to look spoke volumes to me.  At the time I was discovering my spiritual path in paganism and shamanism. Many of the themes Mr. de Lint wrote about were what I truly believed on a spiritual level. 

During this time I had also discovered Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale Series.  It was a series of Fairy Tale re-imaginings.  Each book was a different author.  When I got to Charles de Lint’s Jack the Giant Killer I could not find it, however there was a new release that collected Jack the Giant Killer with its sequel novella Drink Down the Moon.  His ideas that to most the magical is seen as mundane and only the lucky few can see the true magic beneath all things clearly resonated with me.

Later I discovered a collection of his Newford Stories called Dreams Underfoot.  I have been known to buy spare copies of this to give to friends.  It was my introduction to de Lint’s invented city of Newford.  One where Americans thinks it is Canadian and Canadians think it is American.  That is because Mr. de Lint, a Canadian, took attributes from both cultures in his city and still to this day has never said where it is exists.  That only increases the otherworldly quality of the setting.  It exists neither here nor there and in both all at the same time.  This collection introduced me to Jilly Coppercorn, a recurring character and the concept of the children of the secret.  In De Lint’s work the children of the secret are those who have suffered abuse, physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or a combination of all the above as children.  As someone who fits the bill this spoke to me and my experiences. 

I continued to read his works; the short story collections were wonderful.  I read Yarrow, Greenmantle, Svaha, and Memory and Dream.  Then I got to another favorite, Trader.  With my recent experiences, I need to re-read it. Trader is about a luthier, guitar maker, in his middle years.  He has become too stagnant in his life and other than his work he has not created connections to other people and the community at large.  In comes in a young man who is in serious trouble and finds a way to switch bodies.  The story is about creating connection with people and that without them we are rudderless and adrift.  With me losing so much of myself in my old relationship I can see what the Author meant even more now, than before.  That is the reason I probably should revisit this novel. 

I later read another favorite Someplace to be Flying.  It follows the First Nations/ Native American myths of the First Tribes or Animal People.  It follows a feud between the Corvids (Crows, Ravens, Jays, Rooks and Etc.) and the Canids (Wolf, Dog, Coyote and Fox).  It weaves Native American Myths with modern sensibilities.  It also handles how some people do not feel they fit in and how they find their “tribe.”  Many of Charles de Lint’s books cover the theme of how our relationships define us.  Sometimes they do for the better and sometimes they do for the worse.  I enjoy authors whose works deal with relationships and how they affect us, inspire us, and impact us.  I continued to read more of his books including two traditional fantasy novels Harper of the Grey Rose and Into the Green.  Later I read Little County, Mulengro and Forests of the Heart.

Then I started Spirit in the Wires.  This book took me almost 5 years to read.  Part of the reason it took so long was the deterioration of my relationship with my ex, Barbara.  This book I had to take breathers, because the subject matter was so heavy I needed time to digest it.  The story centers on the idea of what is reality and who is real.  Two main characters came into existence not in the typical way.  One was born from a Spirit that existed on the internet.  The other was a shadow, the parts of a person that are cast off who became real in the Dream Lands/ Otherworld/ Spiritworld.  These people came to our consentual reality and exist in it.  Does that make them less real?  These are the kinds of themes that play in this novel. 

The next two novels were related books they cover the character of Jilly Coppercorn.  They are Onion Girl and Widdershins.  I read one and listened to one on audio book.  I read Spirit in the Wires between them, but I am putting them together because of the common main character. Onion Girl covers how Jilly’s past comes back to bite her in the ass.  She deals with her family and her tragic history.  Mr. de Lint furthers his concept of the children of the secret and covers much of the implied history of Jilly.  Through many short stories we know she had been abused, homeless, a prostitute and a drug addict. She cleaned up her act and became an artist and a community leader. Onion Girl deals with her healing some of her connections.  Widdershins goes on with its theme of healing scars that keep us from being with our soul mate.  Jilly and her friends are very compelling characters, they remind me of my friends and acquaintances in the Portland Geek creative community.  I have been reading a series of short stories de Lint has released for the Kindle I am by no means caught up to all his books.  His sense of wonder and melding the mythologies from Celtic lore and Native American Lore is fascinating.   He is able to ground magic in the real and make the mundane world seem magical.  This is My Not So Humble Opinion. 

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