As a writer who keeps a long hand journal, and who still does a lot of preliminary work by hand, I accumulate a lot of papers, in addition to printouts of various drafts. And I tend to let things pile up around me in my den for months at a time before reorganizing. (I should reorganize more often because it is nice to have a clean desk to work on. I like my desk.)
I always make interesting discoveries in these periodic cleanups. In this case I found a loose page that should have been in the oversized binder collecting my dreams and other journalings from 2010. The dream was about finding some books by fantastist and folklorist Jane Yolen, books about Russian mythology and folktales. This was synchronistic to me because I was deep in the middle of reading Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects by Dmitry Orlov.
Orlov’s book is a highly humorous read of what would otherwise be a glum subject: the collapse of the United States as a superpower. While those who believe the U.S. is morally as well as financially bankrupt may welcome such a collapse, the way it is playing out -yes, now- imposes immense difficulties on many people, including the proverbial at risk: young, old, and those already immobilized.
Orlov was born in Russia and livd there until age 12 before emigrating to the U.S. with his parents. He was an eyewitness to the Soviet Collapse, over many extended visits. As such the parallels he draws between the two superpowers is fascinating. What is more helpful on the downward slope of peak oil and Western civilization, are the ideas he draws from people’s experience in the former Soviet union. After building up the picutre for us Orlov focus’s in on three areas we can all work on: collapse mitigation, adaptation, and new opportunities. Within these he tightens the focus onto areas of housing, transportation, employment, and food. One of the more interesting sections are the ideas for types of jobs and work -most outside of the official economy- that people took up in Russia, and how those may be adapted to the states. A truly fascinating read and one that has me doing more to Be Prepared. I was a Boy Scout after all.
The next day though, after seeing the page from my dream journal about the Jane Yolen Russian mythology books, I was down stairs at the library in the Children’s stacks pulling holds. I thought of the paper and then looked at the shelf in front of me. Lo and behold, I found in that very section three titles by Yolen where she retold traditional Russian stories. I took them with me to read later.
Then, I was down in the fiction stacks later, pulling some graphic novel holds I saw a few titles from Alan Moore. I’d recently read his amazing essay Fossil Angels, originally published online, and reprinted in Abraxas 2. The essay blew away my understanding of magic, while touching on so much else that I’d personally felt to be true as well. I highly recommend reading the essay, itself an amazing work of art. It inspired me to read some more of Alan’s graphic works. I’d read his graphic novel, From Hell some years before and loved it. It remains the only graphic work I’ve read which has been so meticulously researched containing footnootes and bibliography. This time I picked up A Small Killing. Why this particular graphic novel by Alan Moore? Because I was on a Russian kick and the story concerned a wayward advertising agent during the Soviet collapse who was on his way to Russia to work on an advertising campaign for a soft drink. It was a good read, and also inspired me to listen to Negativland‘s Time Zones Exchange Project, again, a classic piece of radio art.
When I finally got around to reading the Yolen childrens books I learned a number of things. In The Sea King, I learned that the “morning is wiser than the evening” perhaps because in the morning we awake with fresh dreams. In The Flying Witch, a tale of Baba Yaga, I was shown that if you are going to have an encounter with this witch it pays to be feisty -and to know how to cook turnips, a truly underrated vegetable. In the Firebird, I learned how the ballet was taken from traditional Russian tales. While not a huge fan of the Neo-romanticism exemplified by Stravinsky, I did find the story enjoyable. More importantly Yolen shared all her source material, and I got an insight into her working methods: reading countless versions of the myth, until, at last the story becomes ones own.