SAFARI seems to no longer work
for comments...use another browser?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fae Malania, Writer

Fae Malania died this morning. Although her family is long gone, friends gathered in at her bedside to recall her sweetness and to make the responses in the prayer book as Father Abbott of Christ Church led a service. We paged through her three photo albums and looked at a lovely young Fae, and then we followed the thread of her life through pictures.

The window was open, the watch stopped on her arm.

Outside the sky was wonderfully blue, the hills autumnal and muted.

You should have wept her yesterday,
Wasting upon her bed:
But wherefore should you weep to-day
That she is dead?
Lo, we who love weep not to-day,
But crown her royal head.

--Christina Rossetti

When has a "wherefore" ever stopped anyone from crying?

Reprint of an old post from fall, 2005. This dates from when we threw two book parties in her honor, one at Christ Church Cooperstown (home of James Fenimore Cooper, Susan Fenimore Cooper, Paul F. Cooper, William Wilberforce Lord, Fae, me, and many another writer) and one in the parlor at The Thanksgiving Home.

Fae Malania is one of my very favorite old ladies in the Village of Templeton. In 1961 she published a collection of spiritual essays with Knopf--a prestigious publisher then and now. This month the book is being resurrected in an elegant small paperback with an introduction by Lauren Winner and a biographical essay (that's by me.) The text has been slightly revised, with a new order given to the pieces, but it's interesting to see how well they have stood the test of years.

These are beautiful, lyrical essays, with an interesting sensibility behind them. The history of their re-publication is astonishing, if you know anything about how very difficult it is to get a reprint on a book that has been out of circulation for almost fifty years. Over a year ago, the book was submitted to three publishers, was highly praised by all three and received offers from two. That's a score any writer would find quite acceptable. John Wilson (Books & Culture) and Lil Copan (Paraclete Press) helped us along the reprint path, and now the book is being launched by Seabury Books, an imprint of Church Publishing. One curious bit of rightness about the choice of publisher is that Fae's husband, Leo Malania, was instrumental in organizing and overseeing the revision of The Book of Common Prayer, published by Church.


"Fae Malania's lovely book is a small offering, like a hazelnut. Like the hazelnut, this book is a reminder of God's love. And like a hazelnut, it can unlock a world."
--Lauren Winner, author of Girl Meets God and Mudhouse Sabbath

"The resurrection of a good book is always cause for celebration. 'The Quantity of a Hazelnut' is a very good book indeed, neither extremely loud nor incredibly close but quietly unforgettable.
--John Wilson, Editor, Books & Culture

"With beautiful language and a winning confessional style, Malania offers a spiritual vision that is steeped in traditional Catholicism while open to truth in diverse places."
--Jana Reiss, author of What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual
ISBN: 1-59627-014-4


About the title of the book:

I had an awful dream once, it was a terrible dream, terrible things happened in it. There wasn't any future in my dream. It was all gone, lost, irretrievable; and by my fault, by my own fault.
At the deepest point of my despair, in the twinkling of an eye--though nothing was changed--everything was changed. I was holding--something--in the curve of my palm. Its weight was good to the hand, it was very solid, round. It might have been an apple, or a globe. It was all that mattered, and in it was everything. Even in my sleep, I think I cried for joy.

A long time later in the "Revelations" of Dame Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth-century English anchoress, I met my dream again, and I knew it at once.

"In this," she says (this vision or, as she always calls it, shewing)--"In this He shewed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, and to my understanding it was as round as any ball. I looked thereupon and thought: 'What may this be?' And I was answered in a general way, thus: 'It is all that is made.' I marvelled how it could last, for methought it might fall suddenly to naught for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: 'It lasts and ever shall last because God loves it, and so hath all-thing its being through the love of God."
--Fae Malania, The Quantity of a Hazelnut

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Peg Leon, the Frolic, & Steve Cieslawski solo show


Tuesday morning I had the fun of going to R's class with Peg Leon to talk about growing up as a writer-to-be and answering questions. Peg has a first novel, Mother Country, that I read in manuscript some years ago. I hope she has many more to come! Half the class had been at R's birthday party last weekend, so it was a comfortable setting with lots of well-known faces. Several of the girls in the class have written a great deal--R with short stories, A with a novel ms. Afterward Peg and I went to the Stagecoach for a hot drink and yacked about kids and publishing.

The annual frolic of games (we must have the beloved Game of Murder!) and mayhem went off well, as usual. For the first time, I notice a decided tone of maturity. There was a good deal of nostalgia, looking backward to prior R-birthday parties and the funny things that happened and the games that were played. Traditions violated and traditions carried on were noted. When one is a sophomore in high school, one has at last reached a pinnacle of reflection with the past glittering to one side and the future gleaming cloudily on the other. As always, people arrived in costume and changed clothes nonstop well into the next day, so the dress-up box saw some mighty action. I keep finding outrageous clothes strewn in odd corners. Meanwhile B added in the new element of games from his Theatre Arts class. The amount of lusty singing increased a great deal. Some of the guests have been in chorus together for five years now, and their voices are getting bigger and more fluent. The birthday extravaganza never fails to be touching and give me hope for the future. "O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beautious mankind is! O brave new world: That has such people in'it!"


Steve Cieslawski (artist for the hardcover jacket of The Curse of the Raven Mocker) sent me the catalogue for his third solo show in New York. You can read his essay and catch thumbnail glimpses of his pictures (as well as some by his wife, Gina Freschet) on the web here: William Bennett Gallery. Steve uses "a variation of the technique of the 17th century Dutch Master, Johannes Vermeer. Each painting is done with many glazes of different colors. The effect is one of light traveling through perhaps 20 layers of glazed pigment and bouncing back through layers to form an inner light source. Every inch of the canvas is meticulously painted so that each day, with the changing light, the viewer will invariably see something new and different." Steve's visionary portraits of the psyche and her world remind me of Wallace Stevens:

[CREDIT: Steve Cieslawski,
"The Garden"

William Bennett Gallery
October 20-
November 18

A collection of new paintings and illustrations completed in the past two years.

Opening Reception:
Saturday, October 20th
6pm - 9pm
RSVP for the Exhibition Opening
or at 212-965-8707]

Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.
It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.
--from "The Idea of Order at Key West."

So take a look at another vision of the "blessed rage for order" and linger by the "fragrant portals, dimly-starred." If you are in the city and have a chance, go see the show!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

News & Sillies & Confession & Praise


Mako Fujimura does the most interesting collaborations. I had the fun of doing one with him not long ago, and here is a new one that sounds especially attractive. If you're in New York City, this just might be something wonderful to do:

Fujimura Studio Announces: Makoto Fujimura to become first visual artist ever to paint live at Carnegie Hall in his collaboration with Susie Ibarra, composer.

World-renown percussionist and composer Susie Ibarra will premiere her new work, Pintados Dream (The Painted's Dream), a concerto for percussion and orchestra, in collaboration with visual artist Makoto Fujimura and American Composers Orchestra, at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall on October 19th. Tickets are available at or by calling (212) 247-7800.

While Fujimura and Ibarra have collaborated and experimented with live performance art several times in the past three years, this premiere will represent a first for Carnegie Hall: never before has an artist painted on stage during a performance there. Fujimura's technique, heavily influenced by Japanese Nihonga as well as American abstract art, provides a visual complement to Ibarra's largely improvised percussion sounds, underscored by the American Composers Orchestra.

Fujimura, founder of International Arts Movement, uses all natural materials in his art. "I am more and more convinced that the imperfections are more important to define humanity than perfected products. Acrylic and synthetic mediums can accomplish great feats in design and other plastic applications, but in direct painting, I believe that natural mediums.... have 'memory imprints' of the past, and Japanese materials in particular (reflect) a collaboration with nature, heritage crafts and art."

Educated bi-culturally between the US and Japan, Makoto Fujimura's paintings have been exhibited all over the world. He was honored in 1992 as the youngest artist ever to have had a piece acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. He was also the youngest person ever to be given a Presidential appointment to the National Council on the Arts, the highest arts position in the United States.

Susie Ibarra's Pintados Dream (The Painted's Dream), a collaboration with visual artist Makoto Fujimura and American Composers Orchestra, will premiere at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall on October 19th. Tickets are available at or by calling (212) 247-7800. The performance will be repeated in Philadelphia on Sunday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Harold Prince Theatre of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, University of Pennsylvania. Details can be found at

International Arts Movement will host a fund raising event to commemorate the event. "Evening with Fujimura and Ibarra" will feature a studio tour, premier seating for the October 19th event, and buffet meal at IAM's brand new Space 3839, as well as invitation to the reception with Susie Ibarra and Makoto Fujimura. Please contact Christy Tennant at for more information. Photo credit: IAM press release.


N: Hey, what do you think this?

(Slaps torso wildly)

N, in a silly but fierce voice: The Macarella!


R (15) and N (10) are cutting up on the way back from North Carolina. R slaps N playfully.

R: How dare you!

N, in an obscure and romantic foreign accent: Oh, what a beautiful lady. But so dangerous!


N calls out as the car passes River St. at night: Guys! Penguins! Go back!

The penguins turn out to be a crowd of orange cones nesting on the sidewalk and in the street.

The Next Morning

(Much teasing from older siblings over breakfast.)

N's salvo: Why would there be so many if they're not penguins in disguise?

Teenagers, arguing about whether one of them is a midget or not.

Small classmate turns to R: Well, what do you think? Am I a midget or not?

R: Only a little.

Meanwhile B is a senior of 18 and still plans to be a general (he has been deeply, deeply obsessed with military history since first grade) and President. Dear reader of these words, my advice is that you immediately put on your boots and tremble. Trembling in boots is a time-honored mode of dealing with fearsome prospects, and it's as good as anything as a way to get ready for the Dominion of B.



Yes, I now confess my utter laziness in not checking for Firefox, Safari, Utnostifelque, Opera, Rosti, Snitter, Lear, and other browsers in re-making my simple, primitive website at However, as the planet has whirled around the sun once more and time has thus come round for the famous 2-day birthday bash of R, I simply have time for nothing else than the usual events plus the approaching extravaganza of drama, gustatory piggishness, songs (some mocking), detection, sleeplessness, costume changes, charades, etc. You will just have to put up with the darn ignorant thing as is, at least for a while. I'm just too busy. Also, some of us are web morons and not even properly ashamed.


I am now officially expressing my gratitude to teachers of small children. Do you know how hard it is to teach the same dratted material four times in a row to hordes of children packed full to bursting with questions?

It wore me out.

Let's pay the teachers more, or at least give them a good lie-down and a cup of tea.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Whirling in the wee hours

2:00 a. m. is upon me.

What a day: a decent amount of good bookish news; kid-ferrying and homework accomplished; jolly unexpected praise from many also bookish quarters; revised my dang website (making many frustrating errors along the way) and got a grant sent off. I have been whirling and must now lie down. There are new updates on my bibliography page in answer to a request from a kindly editor, so if you're interested in my magazine and anthology publications, go see. And there's a new home page in need of tinkering. If you have an opinion about what's wrong with it, let me know. I am the only gremlin at work at I'm first-rate at making hash out of the e-ether.

Good night, all.
Photo credit: Thanks to Griszka Niewiadomski of Poland and