Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Water and Fire

We had an assessed discussion in Italian Literature this week and the subject was a short story by Corrado Alvaro called "Ritratto di Melusina" (A portrait of Melusina). I got very excited looking up versions of the folk tale and mythology on the Net and in Brewer (where she is equated to Melisaunde) only to find that the story was about a painting made of a peasant girl in Calabria against her will, which made her feel violated. Desperately disappointing! No snakes below the waist or anything.

She is a water nymph, akin to the Lorelei or Rhinemaidens. One of three sisters and the daughter of a fairy Pernissa and the "King of Albania". Mendelssohn wrote an overture, The Fair Melusine, based on the French version of the story is which she marries Roland of Lusignan. Shortly after we met, Stevie and I heard this on the radio, conducted by someone he had known at school. And that is how Antony Beaumont came back into our life because he wrote and got a reply and we met. Antony is godfather to our middle daughter and a dear friend, as well as a world expert on Busoni and Zemlinsky.So the water-nymph did us a good turn.

Big celebrations of Stevie's birthday on Tuesday, involving not water but a great deal of Chateau Neuf du Pape. I gave him a weekend Pass to the Elliott Carter weekend in January where he will go to a concert every few hours and be absolutely saturated in Carter. He is still composing at 92 - Carter I mean.

Up to London on Wednesday for what really was this time my last Management Committee meeting of the Society of Authors. Helen Dunmore is now Chair, who will be excellent, and Margaret Drabble has joined as has Lynne Truss and George Szirtes. A bad time to be leaving!

I spent the night with Bex so that I could be all day in the British Library on Thursday before doing my fantasy panel for Bloomsbury in the evening. The library visit was a great success - all the nine books I had ordered were there, some in Italian some in English. They weren't all useful but many were. And I wrote a bit on the Oxford Tube. Still I did only one chapter last week so the new routine is already slipping.

The panel went well. About 30 librarians in the audience while Wendy Cooling chaired a discussion with myself, Anna Dale and N. M. Browne (Nicky). Anna has two books out both for juniors and very fresh. Nicky writes darker material for older readers ("weird shit" as she put it) and then there's me. A bit of an old warhorse. Afterwards we went out for a quick Thai meal, with Ann Jungman, before I heraded back to Oxfordshire.

My car was a block of ice at Park and Ride - bitter cold has descended here. In celebration of which, and having lunch guests today, we lit the first log fire of winter. It was perfect, playing a silly game and eating crumpets with home-made jam in front of it - just what country living is all about.