Archives for posts with tag: William Blake
My father wore a Canadian sailor suit and my mother wore her English high school lab coat when they met in the middle of WWI and preserved love letters we can now read.

My father wore a Canadian sailor suit and my mother wore her English high school lab coat when they met in the middle of WWI and preserved love letters we can now read.

Patricia Zick of  Author-Wednesday interviews Margaret Kell Virany whose books include A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, the love story of an English young woman and a Canadian young man set during World War I. Kathleen’s Cariole Ride is set during the same time period.

Q. How do you envision yourself in this role of writing romantic historical books based on your life and that of your parents?

A. Lover of life, language and literature. Note-taker, journalist, editor, author. I write. Little things turn me on, like scraps of paper in a keepsake box and the memory of strawberry socials, harvest suppers and silver teas. The act of being a witness, a record-keeper, a storyteller, and the one who remembers has always excited me.  I feel like I am part of a wider community. My ideal is to help others “see eternity in a grain of sand” (William Blake) and gain access to the best truth we have. As the historian, Sallustius said in 4 A.D, “What happened is what always happens.”

Q. I love that. It’s very poetic, which is very fitting based on your style of writing. Do all your books have a common theme or thread?

A. Yes. Love is my theme. It comes in various specialties: the romantic love of a young couple, parental love, filial love, family bonds, charity, love for other human beings, and the all-embracing divine love brought to earth and presented as an ideal by the Gospels. For me, it was a personal pilgrimage of going home to my parents after finding their love letters had been left in a keepsake box, surely for some purpose.

Kathleen Ward let her lover sail home after he came back to court her after WWI. Later they married and their daughter wrote their story, based on love letters (A Book of Kells).

Kathleen Ward let her lover sail home after he came back to court her after WWI. Later they married and their daughter wrote their story, based on love letters (A Book of Kells).

Q. What a wonderful and powerful perspective. Why has it been so important to explore this theme of love?

A. If people don’t get or give enough love they go searching for it, and a good book can be their voyage. When I was coming of age in the fifties, it was still a bit of an anomaly for a woman who had children to work outside the home. Women like my mother came out of a world, both deprived and romantic, that had untold, inestimable influence on the direction of children, husbands, and society. Such love practices inspired the line, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” (William Ross Wallace, 19th century Indiana poet)

Q. That’s a perfect quote to express what you’ve done in your writing. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

A. “Virany’s account of their (her parents’) adventures … is riveting. (She) has the natural gifts of a born storyteller who keeps you caring about the characters no matter where they are. When the Kells finally return to civilization the pace of the narrative doesn’t flag.” From a review by Ellen Tanner Marsh, New York Times bestselling author.

Here's the picture of my mother I used on the cover of Kathleen's Cariole Ride.

Here’s the picture of my mother I used on the cover of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.

Q. I’d be very proud of that review as well. Very nice and I’m sure rewarding. How did you choose the title, A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void?

A. In my years spent studying English literature at the University of Toronto, I noticed certain things about classics. I wanted to do things that would identify my memoir as that category of book. Fortuitously my family name, Kell, is the same as that of the most famous manuscript of ancient western civilization, The Book of Kells. Millions of tourists go to look at it in Dublin each year, so it would have a familiar ring even for those who couldn’t pin it down. Beginning the title with “A Book of …” gave it a serious, nonfiction tone. My literary background also led me to load my title with words that had multiple meanings and associations which would give clues to the type of content inside. My parents lived their married life as if it were a book. There is an ancient concept of life being one’s “book of days.” For dates and events, I leaned on my parents’ daily diaries. The title could also refer to the Bible, the book that most guided my ancestors and parents. I hit the jackpot, I felt, when I disovered that the root of the name Kells was, according to some scholarship, a synonym for all Celts or Kelts, the dominant tribe who inhabited the region north of the Mediterranean Sea in 500 B.C. This was generic; anyone with a name with the Kell prefix is one of the tribe so the word should have wide appeal. Another meaning for “kell” was a hair net or covering and that was an appropriate symbol for my upbringing as a minister’s daughter. My title might make people think it was a family history, which it partly was, at least for the most recent four generations.

It would be a long, lonely journey for my father from the white cliffs of Dover back to the Indian reserve in Oxford House, MB. But he was not one to give up hope too easily.

It would be a long, lonely journey for my father from the white cliffs of Dover back to the Indian reserve in Oxford House, MB. But he was not one to give up hope too easily.

Q. That’s fascinating. I’m always interested in the creative process, so how did you decide to write this book?

A. I wanted to write it as a romantic novel while sticking rigorously to the facts as I knew them or was able to reconstruct them by careful logic. It should have a beginning, middle, climax and end but these should not be superimposed. They should emerge from what I could find out; the story must be allowed to tell itself. It was a test to see whether the literary structures I had been taught really worked. I had to discipline myself not to make things up. I already had on my hands a self-described knight and lady who had rubbed shoulders with real prime ministers and princes. They courted and treated each other accordingly. I did not have to manufacture their raw emotions because I had their seventy-two authentic love letters from the 1920s. I had been blessed by a bonanza in a keepsake box; I just had to call forth my muses to elicit it and do it justice.

Here is a beautiful quote I just received as a comment on my “About” page of my blog. “Memories are a nursery where children who are growing old play with their broken toys. Kells is an extraordinary book, presenting the extraordinary story of extraordinary people living in extraordinary times.” John W. Bienko

Q. That is lovely. I’m so glad you stopped by today, Margaret. Yours is a unique story and one worth telling. Won’t you tell us  more about yourself?

Oceanbound to a Family Reunion in 1937 (illustration from A Book of Kells)

Oceanbound to a Family Reunion in 1937 (illustration from A Book of Kells)

A. About Margaret Kell Virany: Born on a farm on the northern fringe of Toronto, I got a degree in English Language & Literature and married my Varsity heart throb. Early employment was at the Toronto Telegram, Maclean-Hunter and freelancing for the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Montreal Star, and Montreal Gazette. My most fun jobs were as professional public relations secretary first of the Montreal YMCA and then of the Toronto YMCA, and as a program organizer of CBC-TV’s first live nationally televised conference The Real World of Woman (1961). Following a move to Canada’s capital region, I became editor/co-owner of the weekly newspaper in my home town of Aylmer, QC and had the busiest, best career of a lifetime. Upon discovering the keepsake box full of love letters, journals and photos my parents left, I published A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. It records my family’s lives and my uneasy coming of age as a minister’s daughter. Then I wrote Kathleen’s  ariole Ride recounting my parents’ transatlantic courtship and adventures living on a Cree reserve in the north. At the 2012 Centennial Conference honoring the literary critic, Northrop Frye, I learned that my notes of his lectures would be among those posted on the fryeblog, available for public download. This success brought me back to the day when I dropped out of college for a year and learned shorthand on my very first job, as a receptionist at the ‘Tely’.

Thank you for dropping in. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertaining. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Author’s tips are offered by word and writing advice by example.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics! http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany  www.margaretvirany.com

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The  biblical English poet William Blake didn’t believe in either God or Man as separate entities but in Divine Humanity as a union of creative effort. The divine being takes the initiative. At the point of communication the two become an identity. Man must let go of  his ego to be resurrected. The self-surpassing of human limitations is infinite.  Paradise can  be made here.

IMG_0490_1 Blake saw the American (and later French) revolutions as victories for humanity against established authority and the message of Jesus as one of social liberation. In his 1790 poem The Marriage of Heaven & Hell (where the exuberance proverb appears) left-wing and right-wing political forces are wedded when the right is converted.  The ‘left’ are the Devils and the ‘right’ are the Angels. Blake was on the left, supporting Voltaire and Thomas Paine.

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Blake is a complex poet and no one really understood him until Northrop Frye came along. In this  blog I am relying on “Blake’s Bible” which is published in Robert Denham’s Myth & Metaphor: Selected Essays by Northrop Frye 1974-88

Blake’s rules are radical but as our civilization crumbles they make more and more sense for us writers and concerned citizens:

  1. Throw away judgmental, conforming morality.  It is the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ which God warned Man against in Eden
  2. Don’t be prudish about sex or nudity; this attitude came from having eaten the fruit of the forbidden tree
  3. Pursue your abilities to love and to create. Make them your highest goals. They are the center of potentially divine powers.
  4. Destroy your own grasping and clutching ego. That also will  make you more human.
  5. Realize that the old, metaphorical cosmology of the Bible is not historical or scientific. Paradise and the Apocalypse are scenarios to be enacted on earth by human creators with a spiritual partner. Hell is what we have now.

Thanks for dropping by.The roses are blooming at my home as I write. I’ve helped them a little by fertilizing them and discarding the leaves ruined by black spot and pests.  Please leave a comment below, as  exuberant as you wish.

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Margaret Kell Virany   lover of lang and lit, note-taker of Norrie Frye, journalist, editor, author, almost octogenarian

Photo by Deborah Shackleton

What I liked best about Professor Northrop Frye, whose birth centenary was celebrated in 2012, was his obvious love for his students. Methodist parents reared their youngest son on John Bunyan‘s Pilgrims’ Progress and the King James version of the Bible in Moncton, NB, Canada. With his mother’s milk he drank in the creation, the Garden of Eden, the expulsion, guardian angels, the tribes of Israel, the exodus,  prophecies,  kings,  the ten commandments,  God, Jesus, the apostles, the parables, redemption, heaven, hell, the apocalypse …

But what did it all add up to, what was it for, where did it come from and what made the words and stories so strong and beautiful? As he grew and finished school, he thirsted to go to the big city and learn more.  At age 16 he entered and won a typing contest and had arrived.

By the time I was a freshie at Victoria College, University of Toronto, in 1950  Professor Frye (Norrie) was a legend. Fearful Symmetry, his study of the poet William Blake, had awakened the western world of academics and critics to a new way of reading and interpreting its own literature that depended on the Bible to unlock its code. Actually it was an ancient way of myths, metaphors and types. His Anatomy of Criticism was in progress, taking on the task of finishing Aristotle’s Poetics.

Frye strode to his desk in the lecture room, fair hair and black robe flying,  sat down and surveyed us once with a  kind, friendly, forced, shy granny smile.  His blue eyes gave a glint of the force he nursed. Huge thoughts trotted out in perfect sentences that set the pace for agile note-taking.

I sat through four years of taking Frye’s notes on the usual fare of the novel, modern poetry, Spenser & Milton, modern drama, literary criticism, Greek & Latin literature, Canadian & American literature and 19th Century Thought. After graduating I put them in a box and forgot them. He never lectured on or commented on his own books but his basic ideas shone through.

When I reached middle age and asked myself big questions that had to be resolved I knew Frye was the only person who could help me. I invested my money and time in buying and reading several of his books and he did not let me down.

If you are interested in downloading free notes of Norrie Frye’s classes in pdf form, follow the link given below. When you are in, click on the Denham library in the right menu. For other cozybookbasics posts on Frye, go to ‘Home’ at the top of this page and scroll down.

http://fryeblog.blog.lib.mcmaster.ca/

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