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As we programmed my national public radio show Sound & Spirit every year, we tried to throw in something seasonally appropriate.  Valentine's Day was the best - our programming ranged from the affirming . . . .

MY BETTER HALF (written with Titilayo Ngwenya)
From Edvard and Nina Grieg to Gala and Salvador Dalí, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears to Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill, Sound & Spirit explores the intimate, extraordinary, sometimes unusual relationships crafted by two people in love. Hear words and music by and about significant others, and sample the sweet fruits of conjugal affection and creative partnership.

. . . . to the "Yeah, well, what about those of us who are NOT in a couple this year?" cranky . . . .

BREAKUPS (written with Justine Larbalestier)
Like the beginning of a relationship, the breakup of a romance is a time brimming with possibilities and questions. Questions about the future: Who am I now? How can I live without you? What will I do with my freedom? Will I ever love again? Questions about the past: What was it that we had together? Is it gone now? Did I waste those years? In this award-winning program, Ellen Kushner looks for answers, with the help of poets and musicians from around the world.

. . . . to those wishing to slip the surly bonds of earth altogether:


What is the line between Carnal and Divine love? Over the centuries, music, poetry and mysticism have blurred it, and each one has fed the other - as we'll hear in this week's show! Ellen explores the way that American Gospel music provided the heat for Motown Soul, how the Sufis of Turkey and Pakistan sing of divine passion being found through earthly friendship, and how a modern rock singer, Joan Osborne, even turned to Sufi star Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn to learn how to express her passion.

(Actually, I'm not sure we ever programmed "Love Divine" for Valentine's Day - but we should have! I'm doing it now.)

Click on each title to listen to the show.

Playlists are clickable on each show's page.

And if you can figure out a way to get rid of that irritating blue stuff above (without re-typing the whole thing) . . . just let me know!
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Terri Windling, Delia Sherman & I are selling our beloved Endicott West, the house/arts retreat we all put together in Tucson, Arizona some 13 years ago . . . The letters are flying back and forth across the Atlantic, of course, as we three come to terms with this change in our lives, and say good bye to a past and a vision. In one of them, Terri wrote:

A wise woman I know named Ellen Kushner once said this in an interview in Locus magazine: "Now my generation, we're all hitting late-thirties to late-forties. Our concerns are different. If we stick to fantasy, what are we going to do? Traditionally, there's been the coming-of-age [novel] and the quest which is the finding of self. We're past the early stages of that. I can't wait to see what people do with the issues of middle age in fantasy. Does fantasy demand that you stay in your adolescence forever? I don't think so. Tolkien is not juvenile. It's a book about losing things you loved, which is a very middle–aged concern. Frodo's quest is a middle–aged man's quest, to lose something and to give something up, which is what you start to realize in your thirties is going to happen to you. Part of the rest of your life is learning to give things up."

I don't remember saying all that!  But I do recognize both those thoughts as coming from conversations I had with Michael Swanwick, back when I used to visit him in Philadelphia after Philcon.  We'd stay up late talking, and then he'd drive me around the city, showing me local curiosities and dispensing wisdom and pensées - mostly just posing questions, and chewing on them happily together.

I like to quote my sources, so:  Thank you, Michael.

Fortunately, Mr. Swanwick wrote up his thoughts on Tolkien in a gorgeous essay for Karen Haber's Meditations on Middle Earth.  I invited him to speak about them on my public radio show, Sound & Spirit, for one of the last shows I did, The Lord of the Rings - and, Lo!, someone has transcribed his words and put them up on The One Ring Forum, here!*   (You can also listen to the entire 1-hour radio show - including the Swanwick interview - here.)

Oddly enough, speaking of the LOTR S&S show, I just got FB Friended by a guy in Poland with the rather elegant name of Ryszard Viajante Derdzinski who says, "Your broadcasts are famous among the Polish fans of JRR Tolkien. Thanks to you I discovered The Tolkien Ensemble and Varttina."

Wow.  What goes around . . . certainly goes around!  And Finnish women's neo-trad singers Värttinä can't have too many fans.

*Swanwick quote from Sound & Spirit: The Lord of the Rings:
When my son, Sean, was nine years old he told me I had to read him Lord of the Rings because his friend had LOTR read to him and he was only eight years old so Sean was suffering from major loss of prestige. It was a really wonderful experience to travel through Middle-earth with my son. Every night at bedtime, for months, we'd follow the Hobbits through Middle-earth. And it was really a great experience for both of us, but... as we read, I realized that Sean was hearing a very different story from the one that I was reading. The story that he was hearing was the same one I read when I was sixteen. It was the greatest adventure story in the world. He really loved it, but... as a forty one year old man, what I was hearing was the saddest story in the world. Everybody in that book is in the process of losing everything they hold most dear. And there's nothing they can do about that. Galadriel mourns the withering of Lothlorien. The Elves are leaving Middle-earth. Ents are slowly dying away as a race and turning back into trees. The Shire is changing and not for the better. Frodo loses more than anybody. At the end of the three books, Frodo has lost everything. He's saved the entire world but there is no place for him in all of Middle-earth. All that he can do is go to the Grey Havens and die. That was an important book. I probably read it 20 times through. I might even have read it 20 times in a row, straight through. And then, at some point as an adult, I went away from it and I was afraid to come back because I was afraid it would be a children's book. And then, I reread it... it's an adult book. There were depths in it I could not appreciate at 16. Sean couldn't appreciate at 9. And you have to have experienced sorrow and loss to be able to appreciate it. Tolkien knew that, if you want to live in this world, the price you have to pay is, at the end of the ride, you have got to die. But that's okay. That's a small price to pay. )

October 2014

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