Retreat in Crete

“Hey Neil, I’m looking for a quiet place, beautiful surroundings, warm, with lots of sunshine to write for a couple weeks. Do you know of any place like that there in Crete?”

“My neighbors are looking for someone to cat-sit.”

I threw some T-shirts and the Arizonas in a bag. Brought the laptop connection to the Machine, as well. Staying at the home of new friends David and Juliet, a lovely English couple, hospitable, free spirits, big hearts, and 30-year residents of the Kissamos region on the Isle of Myth.

Between furry feline feedings, I visit old friends on the island, explore new-to-me ruins, and translate my recent French title to English.

The photo is from a hill above Potamida, showing the mountains around Topolia Gorge.

View of Topolia Gorge

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Print-On-Demand at the Librairie des Presses Universitaires de France

Daydreaming on the way to the secret hideout this morning, I missed the train stop. I got off at the next one, thinking to walk to the metro connection. A small bookstore caught my eye on rue Monsieur le Prince.

La librairie de Presses Universitaires de France“La librairie des puf” sells books from Les éditions PUF (Presses Universitaires de France), Belin, and Les éditions de l’Observatoire.

The thing is this: the books are printed in the shop.

When you order a book from their website, it’s printed on what looks like a photocopier attached to transparent box with various screens poking out, an Espresso Book Machine.

Espresso Book Machine
Espresso Book Machine

Fiona, the young lady keeping the shop, launched a print to show me how it worked. From an off-site server, she downloaded l’Antiquité orientale by Pierre Amiet, a reference in archaeology. The paper block is produced on a Xerox printer on one side, while the cover is printed on an Epson color printer attached to the opposite end. The two come together in a glass-encased binder with a shot of glue.

Printing cover
Printing cover
Gluing paperblock
Gluing paperblock
Trimming
Trimming

The machine grips the near-finished book to rotate and trim the sides, and drops it in the delivery slot. The whole process takes about 5 minutes. They’ll ship the product to you, or you can pick it up at the shop.

Voilà - a book
Voilà —a book!

They also have working space with wifi for free and coffee for a couple euros. I didn’t make it to the secret hideout today…

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Etika Mondo’s Ecological Tree House Village

The Cévennes
The Cévennes

Last week I ventured to the Cévennes in southern France to visit Boris Aubligine and learn about an ambitious project. Boris recently acquired a farm house on six hectares (15 acres) of forest land. During my stay, he shared with me his vision for the place:

Imagine a cabin, designed to minimize energy consumption and made with local lumber, cut using renewable energy. Put the cabin on wooden pillars in a forest. Now imagine a whole village of these cabins, and the inhabitants cultivate the surrounding land for their daily needs.

In-the-trees house
In-the-trees house prototype

Respecting their ecosystem, the trees are left alone. The “tree houses” are built on wooden pillars.

The Etika Mondo eco-site will be a self-sufficient, tree house village, integrated into the local ecology. To make a dream come true, first think of it as only an ambitious project.

On the web: Etika Mondo
Facebook: @etikamondo

“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” — Christopher Reeve

A fantastic view
View from the prototype tree house

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Petit Lot at LM Opticien

Cette article existe en version française“Where can I get the book?”
“At LM Opticien, of course!”

I’ve said before that we never know what’s going to happen on an adventure. On a quest for glasses, we stumble upon a book…

Laëtitia has been my optician for the last 15 years. One day she said to me, “I’d like to sell your book in the shop.”

I asked how she got the idea to sell books in an eyeglass boutique.

“I like virtuous circles,” Laëtitia said. “Each one of us has to add our link to the chain, to bring everyone together.

Until Christmas at lm opticien, Petit Lot et le Grand Cor de la licorne
Until Christmas
at lm opticien

“Selling a book alongside a pair of glasses allows me to offer my clients another experience, to surprise them. It’s an opportunity to create an encounter. And an encounter can change everything.”

If, like the simpleton looking for his soul in the depths of colors, you see things upside down, you don’t need the loupe and the ring — a simple pair of glasses will do! Laëtitia and her team will be happy to welcome you into the boutique for your new glasses.

At the same time, you can flip through a book and read a few pages to test your vision.

Thanks to the glasses I got from Laëtitia, I see things right-side up!

 


Until Christmas, you’ll discover Petit Lot et le Grand Cor de la licorne on sale at LM Opticien: 18 avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt, Paris 8è.

Don’t need glasses but looking for a good book to read in French? Continue your quest here: Petit Lot et le Grand Cor de la licorne.

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Download Littlelot and Petit Lot Free

To celebrate last week’s paperback release of Petit Lot et le Grand Cor de la licorne, I’m giving away ebook editions of Littlelot and Petit Lot.

Right now you can download The First Story of Littlelot, Littlelot and the Real Monster, as well as Petit Lot et le Grand Cor de la licorne, for free to your Kindle or Kindle app.

The First Story of Littlelot

Download

Littlelot and the Real Monster

Download

Petit Lot et le Grand Cor de la licorne

Download

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Littlelot celebrates the discovery of the Great Horn

I am thrilled to present the final rendition of the illustration for the cover of Petit Lot et le Grand Cor de la licorne.

Petit Lot fête la découverte du Grand Cor
© 2017 David Jones

Littlelot celebrates the discovery of the Great Horn

11.5” x 15.5”
Watercolor, gouache, colored pencil
David Jones

During our biweekly progress meetings I had occasion to talk with David about his art. He quoted an early twentieth-century painter by whose work he’s inspired:

“I have inherited that strange love for things remote.”
—N. C. Wyeth

Cette article existe en version française“I imagine a more romantic time before the Internet,” David said, “before television and the telephone—even before photographs. Characters in this environment are less distracted. They interact with the world in a more tangible way, and the interaction creates stories that transcend the setting.”

David prefers to illustrate for narrative works, including book cover and interior illustrations, comics, and graphic novels, as well as articles, poems, and book excerpts. He tends to use traditional, old-school media: gouache, watercolor, acrylic, and pen and ink.

In the painting above, as in much of David’s work, there is no digital rendering.

See the illustration at previous developmental stages in the category Couverture on the book’s website. Tomorrow on that site I’ll show the book cover for the electronic edition.

For more of David’s art, browse his website.

 


David Jones - artist,  illustrator
David Jones

Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, David Jones crossed the country to study art on the West Coast. He graduated from the Academy of Art University in 2016 and makes his home now in San Francisco. David’s art is influenced by John Bauer, N. C. Wyeth, and Arthur Rackham, painters from a more romantic time.

 


Stephen Wendell is the author of the Littlelot series of books for children and the grown-ups who read to them. The English translation of his latest title, Petit Lot et le Grand Cor de la licorne, will be the next book in the series: Littlelot and the Great Horn of the Unicorn.

 

Petit Lot
et le Grand Cor de la licorne

Stephen Wendell

Electronic edition, October 27
Paperback edition, November 3

Peregrine Publishing

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From Mont Valérien to Montparnasse

The Eiffel Tower from Mont Valérien to Les InvalidesYou may have seen this view before: the Eiffel Tower from the top of Tour Montparnasse. Have you noticed the mound below the horizon on the left?

 

Since antiquity, Mont Valérien was a high place of churches and hermits. Then, in the 19th century, long-range cannon came into wide use.

Tour Montparnasse  footman to the Iron LadyThis photo shows the return view: Tour Montparnasse (right) plays footman to the Iron Lady.

Louis-Phillip, last King of the French, made Mont Valérien a domain of the state in 1830 and built a star-shaped fort atop the hill in the 1840s. It was the only fort of the Parisian defensive belt to hold out against the enemy in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.

During the war, 10,000 cannon shots were fired from the 162-meter high fortress. The largest cannon, named “La Valérie” by the troops, weighed 14 tons and had a range of 8 km (5 mi.).

Almost 150 years later, the fort remains. Now a modern military installation, it’s open to the public only on la journée de la patrimoine, French heritage day. The rest of the year, the best view is from a park just outside the curtain wall. From there, all of Paris is at your feet, and Tour Montparnasse is 8 km away…

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Muses of Montparnasse

In time primordial, before there were such things as music, story, or any art,
Earth and Sky were quiet, for no thought could yet be formed.
High atop Mount Helicon a winged horse touched hooves to ground,
Where sprung from Earth a fountain, jet of water unto Sky.
So from Gaia Mother Earth and Uranus Father Sky,
Were begat Melete and Mneme and Aoide, Muses of practice, memory, and song.

The concept of an inspirational muse was born as early as the eighth century BC. In that period, Hesiod dedicates the poetic Theogony as “a rhapsody in honor of the Muses.”

In his Description of Greece, the AD seventh-century Greek tourist Pausanias tells of two generations of Muses. The first consists of three elder Muses, daughters of Gaia and Uranus, born as water nymphs on Mount Helicon.

A second generation, offspring of the god-king Zeus and the memory goddess Mnemosyne, gives us the nine Muses of classical Greek mythology. Pausanias has the sisters comfortably installed in their home at the top of Mount Parnassus, one of Greece’s highest peaks.

Each Muse presides over her own domain:

Calliope — eloquence, epic poetry
Clio — history
Euterpe — music, song, lyric poetry
Erato — love poetry, elegy
Melpomene — tragedy
Polyhymnia — hymns, lyric poetry, pantomime
Terpsichore — dance
Thalia — comedy
Urania — astronomy 

Relief sculpture from a second-century Roman sarcophagusRelief sculpture of the nine Muses
from a second-century Roman sarcophagus, now at the Louvre

Such was the status quo until the seventeenth century, when artists, inspired by the Muses, began to imagine each their own personal muse:

“In the seventeenth century, muse was extended to the inspiration of each poet (1665, Boileau), often evoked in the feminine…”
—Muse entry from a French language historical dictionary, Dictionnaire historique de la langue française, Alain Rey (translation mine)

Instead of inspiring the multitude, the third generation muse tends to the creative spark within an individual artist. Furthermore, while in previous generations muses were feminine, in modern times a muse’s gender is open to the artist’s interpretation:

“Traditionally, the muses were women, but mine’s a guy; I’m afraid we’ll just have to live with that.” —Stephen King, On Writing

Meanwhile, still in the seventeenth century, students at the University of Paris, La Sorbonne, held regular poetry recitals to test their wit. They chose for their venue the Pré-aux-Clercs, an abandoned stretch of land along the Seine given to the university by Charlemagne and neighbored by the Church of Saint-Germain des Prés.

In addition to love sonnets and heroic epics, bawdy limericks and derisive satire were among favorite forms. These later, fueled by quantities of alcohol and directed at clergy and church ladies, prompted a veritable war between students and churchmen. At least one death was reported in ensuing riots. Eventually, the university sold the land, and the students were encouraged to take their Dead Poets Society elsewhere.

On the outskirts of the city, a mound of rubble, piled up from a nearby stone quarry, became a convenient dumping ground. Once the city walls were pushed beyond the man-made hill, the dumping ceased, and nature reclaimed its rights.

Over time the mound was packed into a smooth hillock. It was covered with high grass and rampant weeds when the student poets moved in. Having learned well their lessons in Greek mythology, they welcomed inspiration to the recital space by naming the hill after the Greek home of Muses. 

Veuë d'une partie de l'église des carmes“View of part of Carmes Deschaussez Church
and the grand gallery of the Louvre”

In this seventeenth-century drawing by Israel Silvestre, the butte of Montmartre rises in the background, while the artist does his work on Mont de Parnasse (foreground)

The hill itself is long gone now, flattened to make way for Parisian boulevards. However, the name remains. As the city grew, the neighborhood that sprouted up around the old trash heap became known as Montparnasse.

Most recently, in the 1970s, the city’s only sky scraper was pulled up out of the ground: Tour Montparnasse, new home for muses.

Montparnasse Tower over the Jardin de LuxembourgMontparnasse Tower reaches into the sky over the Jardin de Luxembourg

 

 

 

 

 


The first part of this article is myth: “a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon” (Merriam-Webster). In this case, the myth explains the source of human inspiration.

The second part is legend: “a story coming down from the past; especially one popularly regarded as historical although not verifiable” (Merriam-Webster). Though many guide books and historical street atlases make reference to the hell-raising student poets, I've found no primary source to support the story.


 

Plan de Paris en 1657Map of Paris
Johannes Janssonius, 1657

The map is oriented with north to the lower left corner. “Mont de Parnasse” is found in the upper right. The site today is Place Pablo-Picasso in the 6th arrondissement. It’s completely flat.

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