Unshelved Annex

Also see my Main Bookstore

Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

"The Perfect Day For a Book"
[Russian lacquer copy of a work by English artist, Maud Goodman, 1879]

17 July 2009

Years ago I came across an image of a black child totally absorbed in a book while riding on a New York subway train. I fell in love with the painting but somehow misfiled it among my thousands of images. Recently, I unexpectedly found it again. Since readers have often suggested that Myth*ing Links should have a bookstore, I decided to create one with that image. After a few hours of work, I tried to save the page as "Bookstore," only to discover that such a page already existed.

Puzzled, I checked and found this page, a spring equinox project, created 19 March 2004 but never completed and soon forgotten. It had only its "Myth*ing Links' Bookstore" title, its opening image, background, and closing "template" data. I liked its tranquil, old-fashioned mood but preferred the boy on the subway. So I continued working on the new page, spending about eight hours just adding book links from my new BEES page. One page -- eight hours. Myth*ing Links has well over 200 pages.  At that rate, I realized it would take a year or more to get all the books mentioned on Myth*ing Links into the Bookstore! I began to feel overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, I have wonderful books scattered about my house that I'm either planning to read, currently reading, or have recently finished. None are yet listed on any Myth*ing Links pages. What about them?  I know which existing pages I'd like to put them on but that means exploring each page anew, updating whatever book links might already be on it, adding new ones, and, in general, spending more time than I have available right now.  Would these current books have to wait a year or two until I've finished all the other pages?

Last night it occurred to me that I could use this 2004 page as a backroom or annex in an old bookstore -- a private place where a shopkeeper keeps special books that haven't yet been shelved in the main wing of her shop. So that's what this page now is: an annex with a hodgepodge of topics, everything higgly-piggly, disordered, piled up as mood dictates.......  Enjoy browsing!

[P.S. as of September 1, 2009, I am also gradually adding books I've reviewed in the past for -- they're in their own section near the bottom of this page.]

...Magdalen Rising (re-issued by Monkfish in 2007, formerly Daughter of the Shining Isle) is a gorgeous historical novel by Elizabeth Cunningham, the first in her The Maeve Chronicles, a series of rich, witty, intelligent, lyrical, intensely earthy novels on Maeve and Esus (i.e., Mary Magdalen and Jesus). Elizabeth and I did an "author's trade" last autumn -- I sent her my 1977 Moses novel and she sent me this, her first Maeve novel. That exchange started a "mutual admiration society." Her writing is rapturous, a word I rarely use but it truly suits her work. At first, the idea of a Celtic Magdalen seemed far-fetched to me but Elizabeth's work is so engaging that I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maeve's description of one of her mothers in the sunlight (p.8) just blew my mind. After that, I suspended all disbelief and Maeve's magic-filled ancient world became more and more real. Can "fantasy" become thoroughly believable? Yes.

The novel is written in first person, from Maeve's perspective, and Maeve is quite a handful, equally impressive and bold whether she's arguing theology, detailing her first menses, explaining to her reader what myth is all about, or describing her vision of the teenaged Jesus in far-off Jerusalem taking a leak. I found myself totally immersed in this intricately plotted, convincing novel. (If you're still undecided, don't miss the editorial reviews on the amazon link, especially the opening one from Booklist by another of our friends, Patricia Monaghan.  My one puzzlement is why no one has snatched up the Maeve books and turned them into films. In the right hands, they would break all records.)

...The Passion of Mary Magdalen and...Bright, Dark Madonna, published by  Monkfish, respectively, in 2006 and 2009, are Elizabeth Cunningham's second and third novels in The Maeve Chronicles. These two are now on my desk, awaiting a longed-for respite when I can once again let everything else go and re-enter Maeve's lusty, wondrous world -- it will be a joy to read them back to back. (Note: Elizabeth is currently writing the fourth and last book in the series. Her website is

...Living Lilith: Four Dimensions of the Cosmic Feminine (The Wessex Astrologer Ltd, 2009) is by astrologer M. Kelley Hunter. I have been on Kelley's mailing-list for several years and know her as a deeply insightful astrologer with a strong connection to the ancient goddess Lilith (Adam's first wife, according to legend). In this book, Kelley explores the four astral aspects of this "Cosmic Feminine": (1) asteroid Lilith (orbiting between Mars and Jupiter); (2) earth's Dark "ghost" Moon Lilith ("perhaps it is a moon that used to be, or exists on an astral level"[p.18]); (3) Black Moon Lilith ("not a body at all; invisible but meaningful astronomical point of reference" [p.11]); and (4) Algol ("the 'demon' star, in the constellation Perseus...sometimes called Lilith by the Hebrews" [p.11]. In the Perseus constellation, she adds, Algol also "marks the paralyzing eye of Medusa" [p.25].  It is through this Medusa connection that my own work coincides, at least peripherally, with Kelley's (see my Medusa page).

Kelley's well-illustrated Living Lilith offers wide-ranging and fascinating surveys of Lilith in dreams, myths, the arts, and wisdom traditions. Kelley also explores the often mind-boggling implications of Lilith's positions in the astrology charts (included) of countless well known leaders, writers, artists, and thinkers. I'm still in the midst of reading this book and, not being an astrologer, miss the fine points of her astrological details, but I'm still being inspired by her wealth of information (she even tells you, by the way, where to get a free chart showing where your own Lilith positions are). If you're interested in astrology and/or resonate with "the dark goddesses," don't miss this one.

...The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge (Tarcher/Putnam, 1998), by anthropologist Jeremy Narby, is a pivotal book. Even though I finished reading it years ago, I continue to keep it on my active bookshelf because I so often recommend it to clients and friends and refer to it myself. When I was working on my doctoral dissertation in the 80s, I found a strong connection between "zygote and syzygy," which is to say between molecular biology and paired deities in mythology. So I was immediately gripped by Narby's work. For example, he writes near the end (p.160): "...shamans take their consciousness down to the molecular level and gain access to biomolecular information." But some myths and archetypes describe accesss to that same level of consciousness. As Dutch Indologist F.B.J. Kuiper points out, ancient Hindu and Egyptian priests were fully aware that their creation myths concealed what they, the priests, knew to be their culturally-encoded knowledge of embryology. This means that all those mythic warriors fighting against a primal she-dragon was only the story version of sperm up against a huge, solitary ovum. It was a way to entertain believers while safeguarding the priests' secret, deeper knowledge.

When I began this "unshelved annex" page, Narby's book is one of a handful that immediately flooded into my mind as "must haves" on this page. But how could I describe this peculiar book? Every approach I considered would have required too much explanation. Thus, I have decided to excerpt a review-passage from social anthropologist/author, Francis Huxley, where he discusses Narby's visionary ayahuasca experience from a time when Narby was studying the Ashaninca Indians in the Peruvian Amazon: "...the images of snakes and ladders that accompany the experience refer not only to the appearance of the ayahuasca vine but to that of the DNA spiral. To affirm this likeness he marshals the evidence of molecular biology and leaves the reader with the stunning intimation that the ayahuascan view of the world is none other than the scientific view seen from another perspective, that of selfhood rather than of no self at all."

Here are two more reviewer comments from the back of the book jacket:

This is the most exciting book I have read in years. It is a spellbinding, scholarly tour de force that may presage a major paradigm shift in the Western view of reality.  --Michael Harner, Ph.D., President of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and author of The Way of the Shaman.

Jeremy Narby's pioneering work takes the frontier of science another leap forward toward understanding the primary enigma of our time -- the role of consciousness in the evolutionary patterns of the universe.  --Edgar Mitchell, Sc.D., Apollo astronaut and author of The Way of the Explorer.

I found, and still find, this Cosmic Serpent enthralling.

...The Tree of Enchantment: Ancient Wisdom and Magic Practices of the Faery Tradition by Orion Foxwood (Weiser Books, 2008). I used to eat oak leaves as a child. I have no idea why. It just seemed the natural thing to do. I've always been a "tree person." Thus, when a kindly editor sent me this book as a return-favor a few months ago in the middle of winter, I was intrigued and looked forward to reading it. Winter was difficult, however. I glanced through a few sections but had little spare time for reading and certainly none for the "practices" and "exercises"suggested in the book (I suspect they might appeal more to males). It's been sitting in my living room all these months, beckoning to me whenever I glance that way. I may read it simply because I'm a tree person and would like to see what the author has to say. Also <wry smile>, I'm curious to know why the editor's firm chose to publish this book but turned down my Green World Oracle: Listening to the Sacred Voices of Trees and Plants. They said oracles didn't sell well enough for them. How could oracles not be selling well -- especially in these times? Anyway, the book has been here long enough to belong in my "unshelved annex" so here it is. If you enjoy it, do let me know. ;-)

...Elizabeth Cunningham's early novel, How To Spin Gold, just arrived from amazon in today's mail (22 July 2009: appropriately, for one of Elizabeth's books, this is the feastday of Mary Magdelen <smile>).  The book is the newly-released paperback edition from a division of Monkfish (the hardcover book from another publisher has long been out of print). The novel is Elizabeth's "take" on the Rumpelstiltskin fairytale.

For me, "Rumplestiltskin" was a childhood favorite. When I grew up, I even considered the cranky, reclusive little dwarf to be my writer-self's "byform." I have been telling people for decades that nothing would please me more than to be locked like Rumpelstiltskin into a room piled high with reams of paper, which I would then delight in spinning into gold.  (Of course, whenever I would mention this, I would immediately clarify, "But you can keep your firstborn child, thank you very much, for I haven't the slightest interest in raising a noisy, germy child.")

Elizabeth's spinner of gold is an outcast, nameless village girl who is given refuge by a witch/healer whom everyone fears. I'm intensely eager to see what Elizabeth does with this! It's a short novel -- only 187 pages -- so I'm going to read it over the next few days and will then post my reactions here. The 1940's child in me is already shouting at the top of her lungs, "Faster, faster -- hurry up! Get off this stupid machine!"

[Update 1 September 2009: I finished the book a few weeks ago. It took longer than I thought and was a joy to read -- it's not a "gripping," intensely plotted novel. It moves leisurely in the outcast girl's largely solitary world of thought, trees, herbs, weaving, and healing. It moves quietly, luminous with the passing seasons, and I found my heartbeat slowing to its rhythms. I was sorry when it ended.]



The Little Lame Prince by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, illustrated by Lucille Corcos. Note: I wrote the review 1 September 2009 for the "Illustrated Junior Library" edition published January 1948 by Grosset & Dunlap. There were no images on amazon so I provided three of my own: the book with and without the transparent title-jacket and a closeup of the prince wearing his square glasses. As I mention in the brief review, when I was dismayed to learn at age 10 that I would need to wear glasses the rest of my life, knowing that the Little Lame Prince also wore glasses was a comfort and helped me to adjust.

This page is still a work-in-progress:
more books with their links are yet to come

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This page created with Netscape Gold 4.7
Text and Design:
Copyright 2004 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
Designed 19 March 2004.
Resumed work 17 July 2009
Launched without any books as a work-in-progress on 19 July 2009, 1:55am.
Over July 19 & 20, 2009: added the first six books.
22 July 2009: Added How to Spin Gold.
1 September 2009: added update to How to Spin Gold and a link to my amazon review of Little Lame Prince.

[Russian lacquer box from the defunct Sunbirds website]