Current word count on the first draft of Crane Girl is 97,645 and growing daily. Final word count is tough to estimate, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 130K wouldn’t surprise me. I might actually get this monstrosity finished someday.
Part of the fun of this particular novel is the ridiculously over-the-top amount of research I’ve had to do. (Okay, “had to” might be a bit much. But it’s all useful.) Here is an incomplete list of stuff that I’ve read specifically for Crane Girl purposes. I took notes on most of these.
- The 1950s, Stuart A. Kallen
- Point of Order: A Profile of Senator Joe Mccarthy, Robert P. Ingalls
- Lewis Carroll: Looking-Glass Letters, Thomas Hinde
- Warriors Don’t Cry (abridged), Melba Pattillo Beals
- Magic, Supernaturalism and Religion, Kurt Seligmann
- The Emperor, Ryszard Kapuściński — A biography of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. One of the most fascinating books I’ve read in years.
- Lewis Carroll and Alice, Stephanie Lovett Stoffel
- What It Is Like to Go to War, Karl Marlantes — Written by someone who knows firsthand.
- The Fall of Constantinople: 1453, Steven Runciman
- In Cold Blood, Truman Capote — A so-called “nonfiction novel,” based heavily on real events that occurred in 1959, the same year Crane Girl takes place.
- The Book of Imaginary Beings, Jorge Luis Borges — Hard to know which category to put this in.
- The Book of Legendary Lands, Umberto Eco
- The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England, Ian Mortimer
- Joan of Arc: Her Story, Régine Pernoud & Marie-Véronique Clin — Carefully researched, beautiful, and heartbreaking.
- The Secrets of Alchemy, Lawrence M. Principe
- Alchemy & Mysticism, Alexander Roob — An art book: lots of ancient alchemical illustrations, with extensive commentary.
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-glass, Lewis Carroll — I had read these before, but I read them again to get them fresh in my brain.
- Alice’s Adventures Underground, Lewis Carroll — An early draft of Wonderland, with Carroll’s own illustrations and in his handwriting. It’s not all that different from the final version.
- At the Mountains of Madness, H. P. Lovecraft – Deeply disappointing, but still useful.
- “Ligeia” and “The Masque of the Red Death,” Edgar Allan Poe
Religious texts, myths, legends, epics, and fairy tales
- The World’s Great Stories: 55 Legends that Live Forever, Louis Untermeyer — I started skimming toward the end. Not as interesting as I’d hoped.
- The Annotated Brothers Grimm, Maria Tatar
- The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, Daniel C. Matt — A selection of authentic Kabbalah texts.
- The Quest of the Holy Grail, Anonymous — An Arthurian tale from the 13th century.
- Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament, Bart D. Ehrman
- Russian Fairy Tales, Alexander Afanasyev — Of the five tales, the first, “Vasilisa the Beautiful,” is especially good. Stunning illustrations.
- Faust, Johann Goethe
- Gilgamesh, Anonymous — I had read it before, but I skimmed over again and took notes.
- Paradise Lost, John Milton — Likewise, I’d read it before, but I skimmed and copied significant passages.
- The Song of Solomon (from the Bible) — I read this several times, took extensive notes, and did background research.
- “Descent of Inanna,” a short (and very ancient) Babylonian poem/legend
- The Annotated Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll
- Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti
- The Bird Parliament, Farid ud-Din Attar, the Edward FitzGerald translation
- 1940 census records for the village of Lorraine, Kansas
- “The Descent of Odin,” a poem by Thomas Gray — Final lines are “Till wrapped in flames, in ruin hurled, / Sinks the fabric of the world.”
- Lots of W. B. Yeats poems
- Lots of nursery rhymes
I also read the first dozen chapters of Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno (couldn’t go on, it’s really just awful); the final two chapters of Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur; chapters XIII – XX of the fourth-century Gospel of Nicodemus (containing the first-ever coherent account of the Harrowing of Hell); half of a book about the Tarot; a good chunk of the Mayan Popol Vuh; as much Jung and Campbell as I could stomach (spoiler: it was less than a whole book); large portions of the Persian epic Shahnameh; and a chapter of Wells’ The Time Machine (I had read the entire book years ago).
Also, significant reading about: St. John of the Cross, the Arabian Nights, Robin Hood, various species of wild dog (especially wolves, jackals, and foxes), symbolism, Latin, theology, angels and demons, various religions, various world mythologies, various passages in the Bible, Aesop’s fables, the Reynard/Isengrim cycle, and roughly nine million other topics.
You can hate my book if you like, but don’t tell me I didn’t do my homework. 🙂
Have a good weekend!