THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY
For those who are constantly daydreaming about the lives they could've, would've, should've had. For those who watched Soul twice in a row and cried both times. For those who sometimes let their regrets get the better of them. For those who want. For those who wonder.
Nora Seed has decided to die. Ambition thwarted, hopes quashed, the loss-count mounting, usefulness at an all-time low, it seems there's no other choice. Enter: The Midnight Library. Guided by her one-time school librarian Mrs Elm, Nora is given the gift of possibility – access to multiple universes, countless lives. She can open her book of regrets and look them square in the face. What matters? What is the best life? How can she be happy?
Don't come for the story, the science, the philosophy – these are merely glanced at. But it matters not one jot. This is a book achingly easy to read, and one in which the message is the thing. It's A Wonderful Life all over again, and what joy! WE ARE ALIVE.
Never able to pass on a coming-of-age story, Alice Rohrwacher's The Wonders is of the magical kind. Gelsomina, through whose eyes the tale is told, is growing up in rural Italy, working the family farm alongside her parents, three younger sisters and sort-of-aunt Coco. The farm's main output is a mediocre honey, and while Gelsomina seems to relish – and be remarkably good at – managing the bees, the fraught nature of the work, plus her family's unstable financial ground unpins the flip side of her world – a growing wonder at the sensuality of life. Unlike other stories of girl-to-womanhood, Gelsomina's is untainted by sentimentality. There's dreaming but it's earthy – rooted in a strength of character that is refreshingly compelling.
Shot on Super 16, the film has a vague home movie quality, aligning with its semi-autobiographical nature (Rohrwacher grew up on an Italian farm). Ambiguity imbues the film, a reinforcing of the adolescent eye-view. The film is most definitely a look at the loss of a certain way of life. It is both contemporary and not. Unique and not. The absurdity of the 'Countryside Wonders' competition and Gelsomina's shy admiration for its host (played by the inimitable Monica Bellucci) is both juxtaposition, and a seamless segue from one form of fantasy to another.
ROBERT MACFARLANE AND THE LOST WORDS
Loss is the tune of our age, hard to miss and hard to bear. Creatures, places and words disappear, day after day, year on year. But there has always been singing in dark times – and wonder is needed now more than ever. 'To enchant' means both to make magic and to sing out. So let these spells ring far and wide, speak their words and seek their art, let the wild world into your eyes, your voice, your heart.
From the introduction to The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
Be stirred and uplifted by an encounter with nature writer, explorer, word-hoarder and conjuror Robert Macfarlane.
Pore over The Lost Words and its little sister The Lost Spells. When Macfarlane noticed that the Oxford Junior Dictionary had let words like 'acorn', 'wren' and 'otter' drift from its pages, he enlisted friend and artist Jackie Morris to illustrate a glossary of spells calling these lost things back into being. Meant to be spoken aloud, as all spells should, the joy and wonder that Macfarlane's words and Morris' illustrations invoke has power beyond words.
Consider what it means to be a good ancestor with Robert Macfarlane and Krista Tippett in the On Being podcast episode exploring his work. Not only do Macfarlane's written words alight your soul, he gives great interview. Tippett and Macfarlane together = pure alchemy.
In Landmarks, Macfarlane's astonishing meditation on the relationships between words, landscape and the human heart, he collates forgotten and mysterious living world names that he's gleaned from people and places all over the world. From these lists, a wellspring of art and music. One such piece: Hotel Neon's Rime, a musical swelling that conjures all that the word denotes. Fog coming in from the sea; and, the ice patterns formed by the rapid freezing of water vapour in the face of the wind.