“There are nights when the wolves are silent and the moon is howling.”

Posted: August 3, 2012 by Mo Crow in good books

Isn’t that a great line?
I have taken it from a review of a book called “Divine Right’s Trip” on Amazon by A Customer in 1998 here
I just finished reading “The Vanishing Act” by Mette Jakobsen, a magic book about “a small snow covered island – so tiny that it can’t be found on any map” & once again am in awe of the wonderful wordsmiths of our world who can write me to a place I have never been and change my life forever.

Prompted by Terri Windling’s posts about Artistic Inspiration on her “Drawing Board” and Sarah of “Knitting the Wind“s thoughts on self publishing followed by some rather scathing remarks in the English press this week about how a self publishing conference was cancelled due to lack of interest…
All these have me pondering my current quixotic pursuit of illustrating the lyrics of my partner Old Man Crow’s lifetime of songwriting… this will be our third collaborative book, each of which I have hand printed & bound in open editions to a small but kindly audience. With each book the intent has been to get a publishing house to take us on and realize those long time dreams & ambitions of “royalties, royalties” as Billy the Mountain said to Ethel the tree growing off of his shoulder (that’s a quote from Frank Zappa from the song of the same name on Just Another Band from LA 1972) but hmmm… they ain’t happened yet… and this makes me think about the magic that helps a book to fly… or not… perhaps it’s that bit of luck, synchronicity, aka the Flighty Nature of Chance with being in the right place at the right time that can help & a charismatic personality can work wonders too for getting a foot in the door but we are both getting a bit long in the tooth to pull that one off these days… or maybe they just didn’t cut the mustard! We have learned a lot from producing those first two & this is now… by 2015 I should have all 40 songs illustrated, the man should have them all recorded onto 4 CDs, the lay out for the book will be sussed, we have the technology in house & I want to make this next one affordable. All my life I have been very good at making over the top luxury items that I could never afford myself… the most I have ever been able to spend on art is $100 but I have been lucky to have such a talented & generous circle of friends who have filled my house with beauty & wonder over the years and I don’t have a lot of room left for much more… but y’know there is always space for more books! Books are my solace, the quiet place I go for inspiration & so many have changed my life… here’s a bit of a list running widdershins through time;
21st C
“A Field Guide to Getting Lost & The Faraway Nearby” by Rebecca Solnit
“The Night Circus” Erin Morgenstern
“The Gargoyle” by Andrew Davidson
“The Messenger” Marcus Zusak
“A Love Letter from a Stray Moon” & “Wild” by Jay Griffiths
“Little, Big” by John Crowley
“The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
“The Life of Pi” by Yann Martel
“Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson
“The Wild Roads” & “The Golden Cat” by Gabriel King
“The Cat in Ancient Egypt” by Jaromir Malek
“Memory and Dream” by Charles de Lint
“The Wood Wife” by Terri Windling
“Vermillion Sands” by JG Ballard
“Great Jones Street” by Don de Lillo
“The Castle of Crossed Destinies” by Italo Calvino
“Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Atwood
“Company of Images” by Janine Burke
“Jewelry Concepts and Technology” by Oppi Untrecht
“The House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende
“The Book of Sand” by Jorge Luis Broges
“Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin
“Nuns & Soldiers” by Iris Murdoch (two pages that described the ambitions of a young artist who painted cats for a living, I tried to track this book down for nearly 30 years to finally find that passage last year)
“The Zen of Seeing” by Frederick Franck
“The Chronicles of Narnia” by CS Lewis
“Seven Arrows” by Hyemeyohsts Storm
“The Dice Man” by Luke Rhinehart
“The Magus” by John Fowles
“Divine Right’s Trip” by Gurney Norman which was serialized in The Whole Earth Catalogue
“Be Here Now” by Baba Ram Dass
“In Watermelon Sugar” by Richard Brautigan
“The Idiot” by Fyodor Dostoevsky
“The Velvet Monkey Wrench” by John Muir
“Ann in the Moon” by Frances D. Francis illustrated by Alan Aldridge
“Tiger Flower” by Fleur Cowles illustrated by Robert Vavra
“The Lord of the Rings” by JRR Tolkien (read it 13 times after I gave myself the fancy copy with the parchment maps and rice paper pages and gilding on the black bookcloth cover & it took many months to pay the lay by off at the book store after which time I had it memorized and gave it to a friend with 7 children and a grandchild by the age of 30 as she had never read it)
“Steppenwolf” by Hermann Hesse ( I read this at 17 and promised myself to read it again just before I turned 50 which I did and was surprised to find that so much of my “philosophy” of life was direct quotes from the protagonist Harry Haller!)
“Alice in Wonderland” & “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll
“How to Draw Horses” by Walter Foster
“Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell
“Misty of Chincoteague” & “The Album of Horses” by Marguerite Henry illustrated by Wesley Denis
“Little Black, A Pony” by Walter Farley
“The Golden Book of Fairy Tales” illustrated by Adrienne Ségur
& everything by Dr Seuss!

Well what a rave that was! I just had my face rearranged by a skin doctor yesterday after having a nasty little recurring skin cancer removed and can’t see past the bandage to draw today so I thought I would write here and then have a look at the film of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” that I just rented from iTunes & fear will be very bad because I love the book too much so x fingers I will pleasantly surprised!


  1. deanna7trees says:

    glad to hear your face is now on the mend. i was thinking about you this week. i read the ‘time traveler’s wife’ and saw the movie when it first came out. my thoughts were that if i hadn’t read the book, i would not have been able to follow the movie…but i still enjoyed it. i saw it again recently and enjoyed it even more. i think that is because so much time has passed since the book reading.
    i’m reading ‘1Q84’ now by Haruki Murakami very slowly because i don’t want to finish it. it’s so great to have a good book to read and escape for awhile.

    • Mo Crow says:

      the nose feels weird but not awful and the doctor looked pleased with his handiwork which is a good sign & oh goodie re the film of The Time Traveler’s Wife & will find Haruki Murakami’s book!
      here’s a link to a beautiful post about reading on the fabulous photographer Steve McCurry’s blog

    • Mo Crow says:

      I sort of enjoyed the Time Traveler Wife as a film but it was a tear jerker which was kind of tricky as the left half of my nose & most of my cheek are covered with a big bandage so when I cried I just sort of leaked instead & the film missed the most amazing (& pivotal) scene in the book when she makes him a fabulous set of wings in her studio which was totally missing from the film & there was a lot about art making that didn’t translate to the film which were (for me) the most interesting bits of the book, this paragraph about the creative process has influenced my work since 2005!

      “The compelling thing about making art — or making anything, I suppose — is the moment when the vaporous, insubstantial idea becomes a solid there, a thing, a substance in a world of substances. Circe, Nimbue, Artemis, Athena, all the old sorceresses: they must have known the feeling as they transformed mere men into fabulous creatures, stole the secrets of the magicians, disposed armies: ah, look, there it is, the new thing. Call it a swine, a war, a laurel tree. Call it art.”
      Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveler’s Wife (p 274)

      • deanna7trees says:

        well, yes…a movie never translates all the great parts in the book, but i kind of expect that ahead of time. i guess the ideal way is to see the movie first and then read the book and have all the great parts filled in.

  2. sarah says:

    I hope your recovery goes well and that you get your face back just the way you like it. I have been thinking more and more and more about self-publishing. And I read an article today which argued the important element in a successful publication these days was winning the praise of influencers. Here is the link – http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2012/08/were-moving-from-world-of-gatekeepers.html

    • Mo Crow says:

      I really like the idea of crowd sourcing with Kickstarter it puts the onus on the artist/writer/muso/ whatever to get the concept into a tight coherent brief with a few minute video and then by asking for a well costed but conservative percentage of the money that is needed to get the project off the ground if you get more then it’s a bonus and can get a book well & truly underway!

  3. I am glad the thing is off. Let the healing commence! I know many authors frustrated and disappointed by their publishers, and if you’re willing and able to manage the technical aspects, self publishing might just work for you. Your products are stunning, that’s for sure. Perhaps quality rises to the top on the web.

  4. Hi, am catching up with some reading after a week of retreat in Exmoor. I have not read The Time Travellers Wife, am now intrigued as it sounds my sort of book. I particularly enjoyed looking through your reading list and smiled at many inclusions that would match my own. Am intrigued to know if you have ever encountered Little Big, John Crowley. If not I recommend it to you as I think it would appeal.

    Hope the bandages are not too annoying and that your doctor continues to be pleased with progress. It pays to keep doctors pleased, I find. Best to you and yours.

    • Mo Crow says:

      I loved Little Big, only just got hold of a copy a couple of years ago after being recommended by several friends who were surprised I hadn’t read it… it should be on this list too as it did change my view of the world too … or perhaps just aligned with it like when the mechanic does a wheel balancing on the van….

  5. Mike says:

    I talked to mom yesterday. She said you have the bandage off now..is that right? A little too much rain forest farming/windsurfing/landscaping over the years, eh? I probably ought to think about a little sunscreen when motorcycling, I suppose.

    I remember most of the books from your 60s list…or at least the covers of the ones that weren’t Dr. Seuss. And, as I recollect, I read Steppenwolf shortly after you did. Didn’t we go to a film of it together in Canada? Of course, much of what I read in the 70s is rather dimly remembered these days. I should probably re-read Divine Rights Trip. And I think I even got my old copy of The Velvet Monkey Wrench back from Fern when I made a visit to New York a number of years ago.

    Did you leave The Idiot off your list? I seem to remember you reading it at one time, which later influenced me to do the same.

    Most of my book-reading has bogged down in getting through The Tale of Genji. I almost gave up a little over halfway through, but then it started to get better when Genji was no longer part of the story. So I may finish it yet!

    Heal up quick. Then we can go to the beach for mom’s 85th…


    • Mo Crow says:

      Hi Mike good to see you here!
      I’m healing quick and even considering going to the Old Man Crow gig at The Sando on Wednesday ’cause it may be the last one, will wear a big scarf & dark glasses and try to look mysterious!
      & yes The Idiot was so very important to me! will do an edit of this list and it may well turn into a top 100… how many books have I read in a lifetime of reading? now let’s see… on an average of one or two a week for the 50 odd years since I learned to read… that’s a lot!
      & In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan ….those dark & soundless black watermelon sugar days… that’s when I learned that it would be an honour to be eaten by tigers!
      the 70′s would have many many more important books to note here if the memory was a little more intact… haha!
      Wow, how fancy is Punta Sal these days!?! maybe we should all meet up there for Mom’s 85th? I of course quite like the idea of Asheville but what does Mom want to do? will continue this conversation via an e-mail!
      and yes we saw that wonderful film version of Steppenwolf in Montreal, that wasn’t an hallucination after all!

  6. dinahmow says:

    The “nose job” sounds OK;that’s good.
    The Time Traveller movie – fabulous settings! The book? I struggled, but I may have been reading it at the wrong time.
    I need to re=read some of books that created sparks in me.Maybe I should get the sets of artists books done first? 🙂

    • Mo Crow says:

      Have another go Di, my friends have been pretty much evenly divided re The Time Traveler’s Wife… they either loved it or hated it! So many books to read (& make) in just one lifetime!

  7. Nancy says:

    Well, I’m here almost a year later – poking around. Right now I’m reading The Wild Trees about the Redwoods of the CA coast.

    Books that have left their mark (in no particular order)
    *The Outsiders & That Was Then & This is Now – both by SE Hinton read numerous times as a young teen.
    *Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne – read to me by my mom when I was a young child.
    *Agusta Gone by Martha Tod Dudman
    *The Help by Kathryn Stockett (so much better than the movie, I think)
    *The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck – read fairly recently, my birth father’s original copy!
    *The Giver by Lois Lowry – read when my son was in 5th or 6th grade, preread it for him!
    *Wokini by Nicholas Sparks
    *Room by Emma Donoghue
    *Whhirlygig by Paul Fleischman
    *Almost every one of Louis L’Amore’s books, especially The Sacketts series
    *The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald

    That’s it off the top of my head! There are many more that have left their mark, these came to me first. My mom had The Idiot on the dining room bookshelf my whole childhood, but I’ve never read it 🙂

    • Mo Crow says:

      what a good list of books I haven’t read yet except Winnie the Pooh, one of my favourite memories is that image of piglet’s ears streaming in the wind

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