June is for fairy tale!

There’s a lot happening on the fairy tale front in June!

The Australian Fairy Tale Society is having its first conference in Sydney on the 9th. I’ll be there giving my paper, Baroque in Oz: From Giambattista Basile to Shaun Tan. Notice the little Beauty and the Beast nod? I’ll also be on a panel about fairy tale in Australia – I’m really looking forward to that!

Then on the 29th, our Monash Fairy Tale Salon is holding a symposium, Transporting Tales. It will be run as part of the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival and everyone is welcome. The call for papers has just gone out – it’s a bit of a tight turn around, but we’d love to hear from everyone!


Transporting Tales –¬†Fairy Tale Symposium
June 29

Australian Fairy Tales by James Hume-Cook; with illustrations by Christian Yandell

As part of the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival, the Monash Fairy Tale Salon will be hosting a day exploring fairy tale migrations, with a special focus on Australian tales. Fairy tales cross oceans and continents. How do people carry their tales with them? How are tales transformed by migration? In particular, how have fairy tales come here to Australia and how is our own fairy tale tradition based on migration?

This Melbourne event explores many of the ideas that will be raised at the Australian Fairy Tale Society conference to take place on June 9 in Sydney.

The day is open to academic papers as well as fairy tale readings and performances. For the bold at heart, come dressed as your favourite fairy tale character and be in the running to win a prize! This event is open to anyone who has a love of fairy tales, and will take place at the Theatrette, Glen Eira Town Hall, on Sunday June 29, from 1pm-5pm.

We are looking for interested participants who would like to present original work and/or papers on fairy tales. Preference will be given to material dealing with or inspired by Australian themes, but other material will certainly be considered.

Areas of interest:

– Scholarly analysis of fairy tale (incl. literary studies, translation studies, film & TV, drama studies, gender studies)
– Live performance of fairy tale (incl. new & established fairy tales)
– Fairy tale readings (incl. new & established fairy tales)

Please send a 100-200 word summary or abstract to arts-fairytale@monash.edu by May 10.


At the Australasian Children’s Literature Association for Research’s conference in Geelong, June 30 – July 2, there’ll also be a fairy tale panel. I’ll be on the panel to give my paper, “Between Princesses: Fashion, Pleasure and the Gaze.”

After all that, I’ll be taking off to Tuscany where I’ll be teaching fairy tales at Monash’s Prato conference! Phew. It’s going to be busy!


Discovering Stella Benson and a Broomstick Called Harold

Isn’t it odd how we discover authors? Part of the charm of literary discovery is, I suspect, that the authors were themselves writing long, long ago. We snatch them from the past and shake off the cobwebs, wondering what we’ll find.

I recently offered to do a lecture on Cold Comfort Farm (1932) for a colleague. Well, actually, I said to her, “shouldn’t we have Stella Gibbons on the curriculum?” She agreed and gave me the lecture! I do actually think that everyone should have a chance at some point to read Cold Comfort Farm. The advice contained within is marvelous.

Flora Do

While I was doing some fresh research for the lecture, I came across Nicola Humble’s The Feminine Middlebrow Novel 1920s to 1930s (2001), which I can highly recommend. It was in Humble’s book that I learned about Ruth Lowinsky’s Lovely Food (1931). I’ve recently become interested in cooking books and Lovely Food sounded quirky. It is. I found and bought a copy.

It features a menu for “a dream party of some of the most celebrated people of the day, whom one can never hope to meet, or, if met, be remembered by” including Einstein, Freud, Jean Cocteau, Virginia Woolf and… Stella Benson. This is the author I discovered. I didn’t know the name, so I looked her up and quickly found her most amazing novel, Living Alone (1919). Imagine if Harry Potter’s broomstick was called Harold and if Hermione decided to live a single life in the middle of London on Mitten Island.

It’s a story about witches and London and WWI.

It opens:

This is not a real book. It does not deal with real people, nor should it be read by real people. But there are in the world so many real books already written for the benefit of real people, and there are still so many to be written, that I cannot believe that a little alien book such as this, written for the magically-inclined minority, can be considered too assertive a trespasser.

Who can resist? The book won me over almost immediately with this little pearl of wisdom: “But perception goes out of committees. The more committees you belong to, the less of ordinary life you will understand. When your daily round becomes nothing more than a daily round of committees, you might as well be dead.” We perhaps won’t mention that I’d been at a couple of committee meetings that day! However, almost every page has something I’m desperate to quote in everyday life. It’s a gem of a book and I can’t believe it’s out of print. First editions also seem to attract prices upwards of $300, which is just a little much for my budget at the moment! However, you can download it for free on Kindle or iBook. Trust me, she’s an author worth discovering.