In which Jo gets to look after a bookshop for a whole blinking day!
Well, remember yesterday, when I wrote about the exciting news of a Bristol academic cracking the code to the Oddest Book in the World…?
Writers crave good reviews even more than they crave chocolate cake or a really fantastic pen. This is the first one I got, dug up from the archives…
I admit it, I’m a page-corner turner-overer*. I know this crime is almost equivalent to murder in the eyes of dedicated bookmark users, but I have my reasons.
Books are such tactile things; they feel good in your hands and all those wonderful words you are holding up have a pleasing weight. I like my books to feel like they are being read. The books I read over and over again know they are loved because the edges of their pages don’t lie flat, and the spines are flexible and crooked with affection. There might be the ring of a tea-mug stain on the cover. Or a red circle from a wine glass. The crevices might be crackly with sand where I’ve read on the beach, or the pages warped with water where I’ve read in the bath.
My favourite books have a physical personality all of their own and bear the scars of my love. (The one shown above is my copy of ‘Northern Lights’ by Phillip Pullman.)
Which was why I felt truly happy to find
When I’m writing a larger piece of work, one of the fun parts is the conjuring of odd snippets to add to the history or background of the story. Sometimes these snippets end up in the book (like the chapter headings in The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook and the petitions in Blackwood), and sometimes they initiate a complete change of direction.
This snippet will be part of the book ‘Foxfires’. The protagonist, trapped in a snowbound farmhouse with strangers, will come across the thin volume of curious tales with this particular page corner turned down. He is already in fear of his life, so this’ll really make him freak out. Hee hee! (Sorry Jack!)
‘Curious Tales from Travels in Yorkshire’ by M.Nesbitt
Chapter 8: A Disturbance at an Inn on the Edge of the Moors
“In the autumn of 1905, the author was passing through a village on the edge of Saddleworth Moor when he decided to rest and take refreshment at a small inn. At first glance, the inn seemed peaceful and emanated a warm glow from a lit fireplace but, upon entering, I was alarmed to find several weeping women and angry men. A number of the gentlemen were arming themselves as if for battle, though the distressed ladies pleaded with them to reconsider. They made no allowance for a stranger in their midst and continued with their heated discussion.
I asked the innkeeper if I could partake of a brandy as the weather was inclement, and it appeared winter was arriving before its time. He poured me my drink with one ear on the growing dispute behind me. I wondered out loud what was happening and he shook his head with a grimace and told me that Mr Hawkins, a young farmer, had not returned from tending his sheep in the hills. His sheepdog, Bess, came home without him and in a dreadful state, covered nose to tail in mud and bleeding from numerous lacerations. Clearly agitated, she set off again after just a few hours rest, presumably to find her master, and she had not come back.
Written by a philosopher, a mystic, a coven of witches, or a muddle of martians? We may never know…
Carbon-dated to 1420, this enigmatic 240 page creation seems to document a forgotten culture in an unrecognisable language with dream-like illustrations. Some of the world’s most prominent cryptologists have tried—and failed—to decode the text.
If you’d like to have a go yourself, the whole thing is available online.
Take a look at this short film about why the Voynich Manuscript is truly a really Odd Bit of Writing!
So awesome to hear that my lovely Blackwood book is still sending out ripples and appearing in dreams! I remember the first young girl who read it, aged 14, reporting that she’d had nightmares – but ‘good ones’!
This morning I woke up from a dream I could not remember, save that part of it was the haunting poem from Jo Danilo’s ‘The Blackwood Crusade’.
It is a very touching poem. Here is is in full.
‘Tis just the beginning of you and me
As we wander by the stream.
You on one side, I on the other,
Just water in between.
I’ll sing to you as time goes by,
As winter melts to spring.
As flowers bloom, and die again,
So to life we’ll cling.
I’ll sing to you as the river floods,
And we’re poured into the sea.
And then I’ll hold you in my arms
This is the song that the joint hero, Silas, sings to his baby sister, a strangely precocious and magical infant who seems to come, like the rest of Silas’ family, to a tragic end in the river.
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