‘Glimmerglass’ lands safely


My ten copies of Glimmerglass have arrived from Mercer University Press in the US, neatly and safely packed. I’m cock-a-hoop with delight. This is such a pretty book, from it’s generously-sized reproductions of my chapter-headings, to the tawny endpapers picking up colours from the jacket-flaps.

Mercer and the designer Mary-Frances Glover Burt have between them done a great job. Marly must be a happy author. I’m certainly a happy illuminator!

Even under its jacket, this little book is pretty, with its tiny Minotaur stamped onto the spine!

‘glimmerglass’ framed

Marly Youmans’ novel Glimmerglass will be published in September by Mercer University Press. The books have been printed and are currently stashed in a USA warehouse. Soon they will begin to move out into the world. Meanwhile, and on the the other side of the world, from today anyone visiting us will be greeted by the framed original collage/drawing that is the cover of Glimmerglass, the first artwork to be seen on entering Ty Isaf, hanging at the half-landing of the stairs next to shelves packed with treasured books, including all my collaborations with Marly.

Whether going up or down at Ty Isaf, the cover of the book is there to greet and remind me of all the pleasures of friendship with Marly. I love her work, and I love her.

Marly, right, with Montserrat Prat at Ty Isaf, 2011. Both had contributed chapters to my monograph, published by Lund Humphries.

A taster of ‘Glimmerglass’

Glimmerglass, a novel by Marly Youmans

Due this Autumn from Mercer University Press

Cover artwork and chapter headings by Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Cover design by Mary-Frances Burt of Burt&Burt

“You might not know what you are seeking, but once inside the pages of Glimmerglass, you’ll find exactly what you need: ‘a cup of music, a hill of sea.’ In the Republic of Letters. Marly Youmans is our Magician in Chief.”

John Wilson, editor of Books & Culture

Glimmerglass is a series of mirrors and panes that splinter and soften to let you fall deeper into the heart of myth and artistic desire. A resonant, beautiful exploration of fragile hopes and the courage that comes from resisting their trampling by others.”

Margo Lanagan, author of Sea Hearts, Black Juice and other novels, winner of Worls Fantasy and Pritz awards

“I know of no writer other than Marly Youmans who has the genius to combine the spine-tingling suspense of Gothic storytelling with the immense charm, grace, glamour, realism, and simplicity of Hawthorne. Youmans, one of the biggest secrets of contemporary American fiction, writes with freshness and beauty. Whether she’s writing historical fiction or fantasy, her characters leave one breathless. Her ability to describe a person, a place, or the psychological underpinnings of a plot or individual, ranks with the great novelists, the highest literature. A tale of love and intrigue, mystery and pathology, Glimmerglass’ appeal is the warmth and charge of a tale told round a fire fused by Hitchcockian anxiety, empathy, and relief. Nature, architecture, dread, thrill, sexual dilemma, and murder echo against Youmans’ gorgeous prose and terrifying romance, which glides like a serpent―without a single extraneous or boring word. Youmans is my favorite storyteller. I come back to her as if to a holy well.”

Jeffery Beam, award-winning author of The Broken Flower, Gospel Earth and many other poetry collections


Above: my cover for Glimmerglass by Marly Youmans

Due from Mercer University Press in September

Below: my scrap of a thumbnail sketch that started the process

The design is by Burt&Burt. In 2011 the team produced an award-winning book design for Marly’s collection of poetry with Mercer Press, The Throne of Psyche, though because that used an already existing painting from which a detail had been selected for the cover, I was no more than an observer of the process at a distance.

By contrast I made the artwork for Glimmerglass specifically for the project, and I’ve greatly enjoyed working with Mary-Frances Glover Burt as she’s sensitively transferred my drawing to the cover and made clever adjustments to finesse it into what you see at the top of this page. (I shall not spoil the illusion by indicating where adjustments have taken place, but suffice to say that she’s been quite the magician!) Moreover she’s made the wrap-around truly beautiful, with the lettering for the cover cleverly reconfigured for the spine, and the foliate elements unspooling onto the flaps. I particularly like the detailing of where she’s inserted a white rectangle for the necessary barcode on the back cover, but sweetened it by having a foliate element passing in front of a corner of it. Gorgeous work, Mary-Frances.

Minotaur detail from the back cover of Glimmerglass

Below: from my Glimmerglass project-book

today on Marly Youmans’ blog: The Longing for Depth and Wholeness


Marly Youmans at The Palace at 2:00 a.m., June 21st

“Recently I wrote some sketches about fans and paparazzi as part of my current series of tiny stories, since I’m still too busy to start a novel. I’ve never been much interested in the idea of celebrity or celebrities, but I accidentally bumped into a fan site for Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson (the way one does on the internet, following a thread through the infinite Borgesian labyrinth) and then explored some more.
At first, I felt a tad appalled–the latter in part because a great many fans don’t particularly care about grammar, syntax, clarity, and other tools of the trade most dear to my heart. Of course, I don’t care for a great many other things . . . so I won’t reproach them. Clear thinking for me is made of words in the right order, but it doesn’t mean all that much to a lot of people active on the internet. Neither does proofreading. But plenty of people have lived and died without deep engagement with the written word. For that matter, most of our human time on the planet has passed away without written words.
The fascination I felt lay elsewhere. I was intrigued by the idea that a large group of fans were building a story, collaborating on a kind of fiction, telling themselves a thing they needed to hear. It is a story based on clues, and like fiction, it appears as a kind of lie that is more real and compelling than surface reality. The writers are detectives, the story itself a tale of romance between two people who are considered quirky (that is, they are often surprising in behavior, and they have been part of the mainstream but now swim against it in indie films) and smart and good-looking. The tale is clearly related to their roles in theTwilight movies because it is very much concerned with ideas about the ideal and the permanent.
The effort to make the story involves a lot of analysis, the sort of analysis that an engaged reader might apply to a poem or novel or scripture. Every word is scrutinized, every image searched for information–shared clothing, a young woman’s weight gain and loss, sardonic words, tossed-off comments that may or may not be serious. These fragments are compared with other fragments, the puzzle pieces to a larger picture. Tone, mood, and attitude of the characters involved become important and are discussed endlessly. These ‘shippers’ of an ongoing love relationship between the two stars (love, marriage, a new house, a baby) are doing the thing that engrossed readers do. And isn’t that curious?
They’re not the only story makers. The ‘haters’ make their own counter-stories, based on a different reading of information or built off dismissing the stories of the shippers. These stories tend to be more perfunctory and less developed because they are primarily rejections.
Oddly, this sort of storytelling brings up issues about mainstream culture and deep human desires. Why did an obsessed group of fans need to make that story, one in which they piece together clues to prove that Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart live in a private, perfect, joyful world of their own?
Our dark age worships a debased mainstream culture dominated by sex, violence, and speedy electronic jumps from one thing to another. It opposes Melvillean “deep diving,” high art, thoughtfulness, and the spirit. In such a time, it is illuminating to look around and see where storytelling takes hold of people and why. In this particular case, the many fans obsessed with two celebrity figures work to uncover, build, and support a dream of love, a dream of wholeness–an old-fashioned dream that love can have depth and permanent meaning and soul, and that a man and a woman can fit together to become one perfect, complete thing. This dream expresses a core human longing for depth and meaning, raised up from a mainstream culture that is increasingly drained of substance.”


Marly Youmans


My reply, June 23, 2014

“There’s much here to ponder on, not least the whole idea of fan-fiction. I’m engaged by the idea of it. As a child I made a fiction ‘in my head’ about Tarzan. I constructed an inner world that wasn’t written down or shared. It wasn’t based on Edgar Rice Burroughs… I was probably eight or nine… but was stitched together from a mix of films I’d seen, and some of my Tarzan annuals and comics. It was also consciously secretive, because I’d created scenarios I knew wouldn’t be approved of by adults: rather innocent sexual idylls that comforted me in a world where at a deep level I felt isolated and without role-models and shared experiences. We shouldn’t forget what a dark place the pre-enlightened, pre-Stonewall, pre-sexually-liberated world was for children who felt ‘other’. The way homosexuality was represented in films and comedies on TV was not reassuring to fearful, impressionable young minds.

While I’ve never read any fan-fiction, I rather approve of the notion of taking ownership. Better of course if the ownership is of something with a literary level that might spur the fans to improve their word skills, but whatever the expression, I think it’s heartening when people aspire, no matter how clumsily, to creativity.

At the higher-end of the notion of taking a story and turning it into something else, I was excited back in 2012 when the possibility arose of my series of drawings and Catriona Urquhart’s sequence of poems, collectively titled ‘The Mare’s Tale’, being turned into a chamber-work with a libretto. I balked at the idea of any adaptation of the images and the poems into a too-literal narrative, and discussed this with the librettist Damian Walford Davies when I briefed him. So he took the original and biographical underpinnings of the poems and artworks… those being the childhood trauma of my father as described first-hand to me when he was in his eighties, and my later account of the ‘haunting’ the event transformed into in his latter days… and re-imagined it into into a dark, glittering psychodrama of a fiction that entirely honoured the sources, both in tone and in skill. Not exactly fan-fiction… though Damian has been articulate in his love of both the visual and poetic sources of ‘his’ ‘Mare’s Tale’, as has Mark Bowden the composer… but definitely something that touches on the ‘borrowed’.

I would hazard that whatever reservations authors may have about their characters and scenarios being hijacked by fans, and however the results pan out, they must feel excitement that their works have such a potent effect on readers’ imaginations.

On a level closer to home, I privately shared with you some painful events that over the past few years had caused me a great deal of anguish. You quite unexpectedly reworked them into miniature fictions that blew my socks off, so ravishingly jewel-like was the precision of your language, and so insightful your reworking of particular events into a universal mythology. Fables for our age. Moreover they radically changed the way I felt about what had happened to me. THAT’S the power of art.”


Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Images by Clive Hicks-Jenkins from Marly Youmans’ novel Glimmerglass

(Due out September from Mercer University Press)

Glimmerglass on the way

Above: detail of the Glimmerglass cover

Below: the front cover unveiled in the Mercer University Press Autumn 2014 catalogue. (There is a minotaur on the back cover!)

Marly Youmans’ Glimmerglass is now in the Mercer University Press catalogue of forthcoming publications. I made the artwork and the design is by Burt & Burt, who have done a fantastic job.


fossil fish

I’ve made two ‘page decorations’ of fossil fish for Glimmerglass. Marly makes reference to fossils in the text, and that gave me licence to make the images. I’ve never drawn fossils before, which is surprising because I’m extremely interested in them, as references in terms of our knowledge of the past and as beautiful objects.

My father once gave me a fossil fish, purchased from the Lyme Fossil Shop in Lyme Regis as a birthday gift. It’s been present in all my studio spaces, one of a collection of objects that have a talismanic significance for me. I didn’t use it for Glimmerglass. I would have to make a beautiful fine-line silverpoint drawing to do it justice, and for the book I needed a more interpretive approach.

But I think it such a lovely thing, this wafer of laminate, ancient and fragile. The fish… Dapalis macrurus, a species long extinct… is about two inches long, and swam in an ocean approximately (so the label says) thirty-two million years ago. We can see its bones, the shadows of internal organs, the imprint of its skin and the fine striations of its fins and tail. That anything so delicate could have survived at all, even transformed by the alchemy of time into stone, beggars belief. I find that in its presence I breathe more lightly.


a novel by Marly Youmans

Due from Mercer University Press in September 2014


the last for Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass vignette: finch in a fall of leaves

After a spell away from Glimmerglass while I completed work for my exhibition Telling Tales at the Tegfryn Gallery, the weekend was spent making the last few black and white vignettes and a rustic border for the title-page of the book. On Sunday evening these were dispatched in e-files to the publisher and designer. My work is done. Here are a couple of the page decorations, as a teaser for the book.

Glimmerglass vignette: fish swimming in stone

In her new novel Marly revels in references to the fauna of the natural world, but also includes the beasts of more fanciful realms. Then there are the denizens of the between-places, such as the fossils from ancient seas she describes embedded in the stonework of a house with surprising secrets. These were the ideas that led to my images for the page decorations of Glimmerglass. In the Youmans universe ammonites coexist with sea-serpents, and a minotaur may be found in a quite unexpected place.

The design for Glimmerglass is in the safe hands of Burt & Burt, who produced the award-winning design for an earlier Marly Youmans book for Mercer, The Throne of Psyche, which came wrapped in a detail from my annunciation painting Touched. (A work, by the way, given its title by Marly’s husband Mike, who came up with the idea I liked best!)

This has been, as have all my collaborations with the author, a delight to work on. Thank you Marly for making me the book-embelisher of your choice.


a novel by Marly Youmans

Due from Mercer University Press in September 2014

Detail of the cover for Glimmerglass

the foliate stag

A small group of collages made for Marly Youmans’ new novel, Glimmerglass, will be available from my forthcoming exhibition, this image of The Foliate Stag among them.

Telling Tales: new narrative works by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
Oriel Tegfryn
Menai Bridge
Opening May 10th 2014