The symbolism of using light as a narrative motif in fiction

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Credit: Jasmin James

In Kerala, I used to catch fireflies. Creeping down the staircase at night, I’d stop at the windows. The tiny pin-pricks of light caught on window-sills let the darkness live. It was magical, that perfectly illuminated silence.

Careful not to crush them, I’d cup the fireflies in my palm, forming a loose fist. The glint that escaped was not unlike the glow in the picture above, one I took because it seemed to reflect my own wonder at all the light this world seems to hold.

Watching a match flare up in utter darkness and seeing bluebottles fry themselves to…


Helen Huntingdon’s door slam continues to reverberate right into the 21st century

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Credit to Theatre Royal & Octagon Theatre’s production of ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ (2017)

If Anne Bronte were alive today, she’d have been a journalist.

Her clear and seemingly effortless prose would serve to highlight the wage gap between men and women in the professional world, the blatant sexism still prevalent in a society that continues to struggle with vestiges of the patriarchy and the specific brand of toxic masculinity that was recently highlighted by a former President’s mantra of ‘grab ’em by the pussy’.

Why do I think that?

Because she exposed the pitfalls of frat culture, long before the expression was coined and emphasised the need for self-determination in a woman as…


J. R.R. Tolkien wrote Christmas letters to his children that prove a less well-known yet lasting legacy

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Credit to the Tolkien Estate Ltd (1976)

Blood-thirsty orcs, dark caves filled with evil goblins and a wise old man with a long beard-no, this is not an ode to Tolkien’s famed Lord of the Rings but another story all together, one that tells us how Christmas came to be.

Without fail, the famed writer and eminent scholar of Anglo-Saxon Literature would pen a letter to his children under the name ‘Father Christmas’. …


Curl up on your couch and indulge in festive spirit this season

We’ve had a trying year but we’ve rallied. From re-discovering the joy of the natural world to embracing dating like a Regency couple, 2020 has also had its fair share of pleasant surprises. Christmas this time around promises to be all that and more-especially considering that lockdown mode gives us all the perfect excuse to hunker down with some gingerbread and cookies to watch all the beloved holiday films we can think of. (I’ve heard there’s a whopping 82 new original productions to stream -if so, that’s a truly epic movie marathon in the making.)

This list narrows it down…


Gregory Maguire’s newest fairy tale revision is rich in atmosphere but poor in plot

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Cultural Pitfalls leading to A Brave New World

As the brain behind the original story that inspired hit Broadway musical Wicked, Gregory Maguire is celebrated as a storyteller with clout when it comes on putting a new spin on beloved fairy tales. Yet the famed magic touch of the writer of the Nutcracker retelling Hiddensee seems somewhat lacking in his newest novel. Described by Maguire himself as ‘comfort food during the pandemic’, it follows that description to a T- a wholesome yet not engrossing read.

Following the fate of 15-year old Laura Ciardi who grows up in the 1960’s version of New York’s Upper East Side, it’s a…


St.Nicholas of Myra was the original gift-bearer

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Credit to akg-images / André Held

Father Christmas: From infernal roots to present glory

A jolly old man from the North Pole and a horned demon aren’t usually the same person.

But in Austria and Germany, Santa only became a fixture in the mid-twentieth century. For centuries, it was an array of ‘wild men’ that stole the show. Once December approached, young men would dress up, prance around their villages, scare children and demand money from their superiors.The family feast with tree and presents came later-the original celebrations were a madcap concoction of Christmas, Halloween and New Year thrown together.

What made the German speaking territories so unique was their affinity for the beast…


The Christmas Demon comes to whisk away children who have been ‘naughty, not nice’

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Credit to Stefan Koidl

At the very least since Austrian actor Christopher Waltz (‘Inglorious Bastards’) explained on The Tonight Show what Krampus means to and in his home country, the iconic figure has garnered global attention.

The eponymous Krampus, a festive Hollywood horror film, may have had something to do with that as well.

With some international newspapers decrying the practice as a barbaric holdover from a darker age encouraging crime and robbery under the cover of night, the tendency has been to lament over the dangers posed by the horned demon to susceptible children as well as the threat they represent to…


Why the book selling industry inevitably struggles during Covid-19

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Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

Strange times, when bookshops have to close while gun shops remain open. As of Tuesday, that is the world I live in. In Austria, since the government decided to impose a hard lockdown over the ‘soft’ version it favoured till mid-October, things have been topsy-turvy. More than usual, that is.

Before, it was a question of why museums needed to close while churches could remain open that managed to polarise parts of the nation. …


On delving deep beyond the veneer of life to the painful truths of existence

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A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie (1882), Credit to Albert Bierstadt and Google Art Project

You might have guessed that the ‘Romanticism’ in ‘Dark Romanticism’ has something to do with passion. The literary movement of the same name was notable for authors using emotions as leading lights for their fiction, rejecting the rational ideal propagated during the Enlightenment.

The ‘Dark’ bit, however, makes all the difference.

Without it, we are safely tucked into the territory of Emerson and Thoreau.

Fine transcendentalist writers, certainly, but these days, the wholesome and rejuvenating beauty of nature just doesn’t cut it for me.

Of course, I enjoy walking in the woods, taking in the fall colours and dreaming of…


Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Gothic Tales’ is an exposition on female suffering, moral double standards and classism

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John Constable, Dedham Lock (1820), Copyright to Tate under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

In Defence of a Moralizing, ‘Preachy’ Writer

Elizabeth Gaskell is often overlooked as a novelist.

And with that I mean in the public consciousness-in the past twenty years, she has begun to garner some truly well-deserved recognition for her contributions to 19th century literature. Biographical research, making use of her own correspondence as well as feminist and Gothic analysis of her work have helped establish her fiction as part of the literary canon. …

Jasmin James

Photojournalist and narrative non-fiction writer

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