This is the first of a new feature on this blog. I’ll be posting ocassional reviews of books that I am reading, poetry related or not. If you’d like to see more of these, please let me know in the comments.
Title: The Viking Spirit: An Introduction to Norse Mythology and Religion.
Author: Daniel McCoy
This book is intended as a introduction to Norse/Viking Mythology and culture for the layman. It is written in a fairly accessible style and contains a plethora of information and retells many of the best known tales from Norse Mythology. He also includes many footnotes and a large bibliography if one is inclined to read deeper about these topics. However, there are some pretty substantial flaws in the book that a potential reader should be aware of:
Note: This is an excerpt from a larger project that I have been working on for many years concerning the mythical and legendary history of Britain.
(The Ancient History of Britannia)
by Emrys of Carmarthen (c 390 CE)
Edited by John W. Leys
They came from beyond the horizon, perhaps traveling on sunbeams across the heavens, and settled beyond the north wind. The Eldar, the elder races, who inhabited these lands long before the advent of mankind. Tall and slight of build their delicate features radiate an unexpected sense of power, intelligence, and beauty. Though they are said to have a lifespan several times that of a man, their lives are said to be significantly shorter than their forbearers, who were said to be practically immortal, barring accidents. Whether this is due to, as some claim, interbreeding with mankind, or merely a sign
of entropy’s ever-increasing hold on our world is ultimately unknown. Called the Ælfar, a name thought to be related to the Latin word album (white) due to their pale complexion and the glow they radiate, their ultimate origin is a mystery, even, it would seem, to themselves.
In Chapter II of Summer of a Doormouse the main character, Jack, talks about and shares a short piece of a story that he had been writing called ‘The Simple Secret,’, which he says was inspired by Pete Townshend‘s unfinished “Lifehouse” project. The Simple Secret is an actual story that I began writing when I was in high school, never finished, and attempted to blend into Summer of a Doormouse a few years later. I thought I would share the rest of what I had written for that story. I don’t think its as good as Summer of a Doormouse, but I am rather fond of parts of it. Not bad for a teenager.
The Simple Secret
“The future’s been seen
As men try to realize
The simple secret of a note in a song”
– Pete Townshend, 1971
8 December 3920
Jim felt the bullets slice through his back, as he and Aurora fell through the rapidly closing hatchway. Tumbling to the deck, Aurora caught a glimpse of his wounds. The fur began to stand up on her back. She had only met this man a few months ago, but in that time he’d saved her life several times. She didn’t want him to die because of her.
Lying flat on his back Jim’s eyes began to glass over. Aurora cradled his head in her arms. Her tail unconsciously brushed his arm. She tried to feign indifference, but it didn’t seem to help the situation. Jim stared into space for what seemed like eons, finally he spoke.
“Is this the end?” Aurora tried to reassure him, but she sat mute as he began to cough up blood along with pieces of his lung. “Is this it?” He croaked, “Is it finally over?” Jim could taste the salty fluid in his mouth and knew he was going to die, but that wasn’t what was worrying him. “Please. . .” He tried to speak as his stomach emptied its contents into Aurora’s furry lap. She didn’t seem bothered by this or the dry heaves that followed. She was crying too hard to be bothered by anything so trivial. “Please,” his voice sounded as if he’d been chewing on broken glass, “why do you have to make it so damn hard? I’ve almost found. . .it. . .Please. . .” Jim’s gray eyes began to fill with tears as his body spasmed. The muscles in his neck tensed suddenly raising his head up several inches into the air. Another spasm came and his body fell limp, his head dropping into the pool of blood and vomit in Aurora’s lap. Continue reading
These fragments are from a very early draft of Summer of a Doormouse in which the main narrative followed directly after the Prologue instead of going into a flashback as it does in the version of Chapter I posted on this blog. You may notice some discontinuity between these fragments and the other posted parts of Summer of a Doormouse. This is because they come from two different drafts. I do not have a copy of my original draft of the prologue on my computer. I’m missing it and other pieces of the first draft, though I believe I have them in storage somewhere. If I locate them I will post them.
29 December 1979
His delicate, somewhat attractive, feminine features are now drawn, shallow, and sickly. The light build that I’d once found strangely alluring is now repulsively frail. The over sized nose, which I had once defended as being aristocratic, now seems swollen and bulbous. Eyes that once transmitted so much emotion, be it laughter or tears, are now glassy and bloodshot. His hair hangs long, stringy, and unwashed. I don’t think he’s shaved or bathed in at least three days. It would seem that he’s turned destroying his life, among other things, into an art form. Continue reading
These is a revised version of the first Alternate prologue for my unfinished Summer of a Doormouse project. It was written around 4 years later in October 2008. It is, if I’m not mistaken, the last major work I did on this project.
Summer of a Doormouse
Through the dirty mud smudged bus window I watch as New Jersey blends into Pennsylvania, traveling to a meeting where a complete stranger will decide my future. I am alone, without a home. Not that I am homeless by any means. I live in a dorm room at Columbia University in Manhattan, while the majority of my belongings reside with my fiance in Pennsylvania in the apartment we share when I’m not at school. But neither of these feels much like “home” anymore, if indeed they ever did. Strangely, the Columbia dorm room feels more like a home than my fiance’s apartment these days, and not merely because I spend the majority of my time there. I hesitate to let the thought crack my conscious mind, but I feel her life slipping away from mine, as though we were still “together” out of habit as much as anything else. How telling is it that I am returning to Shillington briefly for a bankruptcy hearing and she could find no time to see me while I’m here. Continue reading
This prose fragment is an alternate beginning to Summer of a Doormouse. This version of the story never got passed this point. A few years later I rewrote this prologue pretty extensively, but didn’t get any further.
Summer of a Doormouse
The years peel back like an onion as memories float by outside the dirty Greyhound window. So long ago it seems a dream, or a story told to me long ago about someone else. Maybe it didn’t happen at all. Could it all just be a story I’ve told myself so often, trying to get the details right, that it seems real to me now?
The bus travels through the Lincoln Tunnel toward New Jersey as I write, the vibration of the bus on the road making it difficult to write legibly, which is always a challenge when my brain talks faster than my hand can write.
To be sure its a story I’ve attempted to tell many time over the past few decades, always with little success. I even tried piggy backing, marrying it to another unfinished story by another author. It was a good story built around a grand dream. But it wasn’t my dream; it wasn’t my story. Its hard enough in life to try and live out your own dreams without trying to tackle someone else’s as well.
I’m traveling home now for a brief meeting with my lawyer. I don’t recall any lawyers from my dreams, but sometimes in real life you must meet with lawyers. Despite what you may have heard, life is not a dream. Continue reading
The following fragment was written for my Summer of a Doormouse project. I wasn’t quite sure where it would be placed in relation to the rest of the narrative, though the scene is mentioned in passing in the draft of Chapter II I posted on this blog as one of Jack’s reaccuring dreams, though the nature and relative reality of these dreams is not addressed within the chapters that have been written and posted thus far.
All my life everything seemed to be building up to something. Something special. Something that I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to participate in. I had been expecting something on the order of Christ’s passion, or at the very least something similar to what had happened to Kilgore Trout in Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. In the end it all seems somewhat anti-climatic. Nothing happened. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe life has no point to it after all. Continue reading
Summer of a Doormouse
Back to Chapter I
I’m gettin funny dreams again and again
I know what it means, but…
– Pete Townshend, 1965
I’ve been listening to Pete’s new concept album, Psychoderelict, almost constantly since I got it yesterday afternoon. The main character, a burned out rock star named Ray High, spends much of the album revisiting an old unfinished project of his called “Gridlife”, which is represented by bits and pieces of Pete’s old unfinished Lifehouse project. It’s gotten me to thinking about that story I was working on when I was in college. Mostly crap if memory serves (and it usually doesn’t) and largely ripped of from what I’d pieced together as Pete’s original story line for Lifehouse. Somehow I’d actually thought that I could give those ideas and visions form when their creator couldn’t. Ah, the egotism of a youthful artist… But still, maybe I should fish out those old manuscripts and have a look for old times sake. Maybe they weren’t as bad as I remember. After all, Ang always liked them. I’ve been thinking of her a lot lately. Especially since the dreams have returned. Continue reading
Summer of a Doormouse
Back to Prologue
Always, no, sometimes think its me, but, you know, I know when it’s a dream…
– John Lennon & Paul McCartney, 1967
I wake up to the news that Keith Moon is dead. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling in the dark for several minutes while it sinks in. He was found dead in his apartment yesterday. The same apartment Cass Elliot died in. According to the DJ he died of an overdose, which isn’t too surprising really. What’s strange is that he OD’d on meds he was taking to get off booze. Too strange. I’ve been a big fan of The Who since I first heard their Who’s Next album when I was in junior high school and became absolutely obsessed when Quadrophenia came out a couple years later. Their guitarist and chief songwriter, Pete Townshend, is like a god to me. Moonie was the heart and soul of the group. He is (was) without a doubt the greatest rock n roll drummer in the world. I wonder what the group will do now? I’ve heard rumors that Pete’s been just looking for a reason to break up the band and go solo. I guess this is his chance. Oh well, I guess nothing lasts forever, eh? Continue reading
When I started this blog my intention was to share prose as well as poetry (though poetry will likely always be my main focus), but I have neglected to post any prose pieces until now.
Summer of a Doormouse is an unfinished prose project that I haven’t done any signifigant work on in many years. I have hopes of finishing it in some form someday, but, until then, I want to share it here and mayb get some feedback.
The Summer of a Doormouse
by John W. Leys
“When one subtracts from life infancy (which is vegetation), –sleep, eating, and swilling – buttoning and unbuttoning—how much remains of downright existence? The summer of a doormouse.”
– George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron (1788-1824) Journal Entry, dated 7 December 1813 Continue reading