Happy Halloween! Well, it was yesterday or today or tomorrow depending on where you’re from. Anyway, it’s time to see something freaky. This is a traditional Irish Jack-o’-Lantern made from a turnip. Turnips and beets were the popular plants to make Jack-o’-Lanterns out of before pumpkins became available in European supermarkets.
This nineteenth century example is from the Museum of Country Life in Turlough Village, County Mayo, Ireland. The Irish say they got the tradition of Jack-o’-Lanterns because of the deeds of a certain blacksmith named Jack. He managed to trap the Devil through some means (stories vary from fooling him into turning into a coin or climbing a tree and then trapping him with a cross) and in return for freeing him, got the Devil to promise not to put him in Hell.
Once Jack died, Heaven refused to take him and Hell couldn’t take him either, so now he walks the Earth in a Purgatory of his own making. The Devil gave him a bit of a fire in a turnip to help him light his way at night. He’s been called Jack of the Lantern, or Jack-o’-Lantern, ever since.
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The New Death and Others is James Hutchings’ newly-published collection of gothic poetry and short fiction. The title found its way to me through my appreciation of Robert E. Howard’s “The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune” for it is one of four fantasy stories that the author adapts in verse form. I admit to being skeptical that the quality would not come even close to doing justice to the works that provided inspiration. When I read Hutchings’ poem, I found myself recalling Tolkien’s use of poetry throughout The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Here was a similar approach that uses the beauty of words sparingly to convey complex stories or histories in minimalist form. Hutchings’ work immediately captured my imaginations and left me hungry to sample more of his work.
I humbly admit to struggling with technology. Many are the times I require my kids’ assistance to navigate through the DVD’s remote in order to access special features or skip chapters or fast forward properly. The idea of owning an eBook is something that appeals to me as much as owning an iPod or iPhone. That said Amazon has made it hard for me to resist the technology with their free PC for Kindle download. As a reviewer, there are an increasing number of publishers who prefer to send their works as an eBook. The freeware allows readers to enjoy numerous free classics as well as sample other works for literally a fraction of their printed cost and without having to buy an expensive Kindle or Nook. All of this is actually relevant since Mr. Hutchings’ excellent offering is available at Amazon as an eBook or direct from Smashwords’ website for download. Quite honestly, I cannot think of a more perfect Halloween gift than this collection of poems. One could easily see the book becoming a seasonal tradition.
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