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This review is taken from PN Review 96, Volume 20 Number 4, March - April 1994.

LEGENDS JANE WODENING, from The Book of Legends (Invisible Books) £4.95

You might look on Jane Wodening's from The Book of Legends as the charming antitype of those monster biographies we have come to expect nowadays. Her stories are brief lives, but longer than most of Aubrey's. You can read her book in half an hour and you have some of the saliences of these lives, two of them of famous people, Joseph Cornell and Charles Olson, the third the story of the less famous - at any rate, on this side of the Atlantic - Maya Deren, a voodoo dancer and priestess. She is the only one of the three Jane Wodening actually met, though never shook hands with, because when they approached each other 'something told each of us not to touch the other.'

Of Wodening's three subjects it is Joseph Cornell who seems to come closest to her own size of artistic world. One thinks of the scale of those pocket-size games he invented which are impossible to win or lose, and of his small boxes of assemblages that derive, in part, from Max Ernst's 'Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale'. The word 'miniature' if applied to these carries rather less suggestion than the contents of the boxes themselves. Unlike Ernst, Cornell's constructions are not in the least sinister - and the same is true of Jane Wodening's legends - but rather grown-ups' fairy tales whose presences are ultimately beneficent. Even Wodening's voodoo priestess, possessed by Papa-Loco, Haitian god of weather and also of ...


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