When a press release announcing the second installment of the Disney Fairies publishing series recently came across Unreal's desk, we were suprised we thought Mickey Mouse's ancestors would have done fairies ages ago! (Especially since the series' flacks say it's poised to reach $800 million in retail sales this year.) Gail Carson Levine of Brewster, New York, the highly successful author of Ella Enchanted (made into a 2004 movie starring Anne Hathaway), pens the Fairies franchise and spoke to us by phone.
Unreal: What different kinds of fairies are there?
Gail Carson Levine: I feel quite free to invent different kinds of fairies because I don't think I'm likely to meet a fairy on the street. In Ella, the fairies look like you and me, except they have very tiny feet. They're very powerful. In my series The Princess Tales, they're seven feet tall and have huge fleshy wings that look like enormous ears. And in the new book, Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand, they're the great wanded fairies. It's very subtle territory because one can make a fairy be what suits the needs of the story.
Did you write about something more mundane prior to fairies?
I worked for 27 years for New York state government, as a mid-level bureaucrat.
Did any of your colleagues inspire any of your fairies?
[Pause] No. But wands are dangerous, because of their power. In government, I did get a fairly close look at the dangers of power.
Do you think Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan read fairy books when they were younger?
Actually, Britney Spears has read some of my Princess Tales and likes them. This is a terrible thing to confess, but I don't even know who Lindsay Lohan is.
If you were a fairy, what kind of fairy would you be?
I'd be tall, because I'm very tiny. I would be a singing talent, because that is not my talent.
White Towel Crime
Unreal was intrigued to discover that the Center of Clayton gym declared last week Towel Amnesty Week "in order to recover much-needed towels that may have wandered out of the facility at one point in time." Is there a strange new breed of fungus afoot that grants hitherto inanimate objects powers of locomotion? Or was this just a case of widespread white-terry-cloth-collar crime?
Unreal hastened to Clayton to find out.
Much to our disappointment, the answer, according to events facility coordinator Mary Wolf, is neither. Towel Amnesty Week happens every year. "Our guests aren't criminal by nature no way," Wolf says. "It's easy to walk out wearing a towel around your neck, or stuff it in your bag. I walk out with towels sometimes."
Upon inspection of the towels, we decide that absent-mindedness, indeed, seems a much more logical explanation for Claytonites' insatiable lust for fine linens. The gym's towels are plain and white, with the sort of thinness that indicates a low thread count. "I hope the towels our guests bring from home are a lot nicer," Wolf says. "I know where these towels come from." Towel Amnesty Week is conducted in a spirit of private repentance. Thieves quietly return towels to the bins at the front desk or in the locker rooms, where they mingle freely with other towels that have never left the building. But because of its clandestine nature, it's difficult to calculate the success of Towel Amnesty Week.
Wolf also dashed our hopes of further scientific discovery by assuring us that the towels are washed and bleached every day, and that the grungier specimens get recycled as cleaning rags.
Unreal tends to recall the David R. Francis Quadrangle on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus as a backdrop for intoxicated wandering; in our blurred visions, Jesse Hall and the columns gleamed with a heavenly presence. That same presence is now visible in the Majesty of Mizzou, a new release from painter Thomas Kinkade.
Kinkade was on the Mizzou campus last fall, when he toured a new subdivision in Columbia that includes a group of Kinkade-style cottages. Both of Kinkade's parents were born in Missouri, and he quickly caught the homecoming spirit. He agreed to paint Jesse Hall to help Mizzou raise $1 billion. Intrigued, Unreal tried to unlock the secrets of the "Painter of Light."
Unreal: Your work is very hopeful and idyllic. What do you do when you aren't feeling it?
Thomas Kinkade: I have painted some things that would be considered ugly. For example, I've done a number of studies of street people. Often I'll say, "Hey, I'll give you a couple bucks if you pose for me." I wouldn't necessarily publish that because that is not necessarily an image most people would find inspiring to live with every day. I create a positive filter.
What is the meaning of all this light?
I had an old friend who was an artist when I was a boy. He had this big insight at the end of his life. If you can look beyond the reality, look beyond the day-to-day life, beyond the leaves of the trees the leaves fall off every year beyond that, the light lasts forever. That story is captured in a movie that comes out this fall.
It's called Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage. Playing me, when I was 22 years old, is a wonderful young actor who you should Google Jared Padalecki. He was a regular on the Gilmore Girls for years. By the way, in the movie, Glen Wessels [Kinkade's mentor], is played by the great Peter O'Toole.
Who taught you to be such a shrewd businessman?
A painter has a great opportunity to share art if you don't get hung up on the idea of art as an original. Andy Warhol said the greatest art is the art that is seen by the most people. The kind of work I've done over the years has been broadly accepted, just like Norman Rockwell was in his day.
Do you ever feel your work lacks a touch of reality?
I don't have any interest in celebrating the bitter realities of life.
So why do you paint homeless people?
It's just diversity. It's just another way to observe the world, but I'm very strategic about the way I communicate with my public. I protect the Kinkade vision, the Kinkade message. That's the one I believe in.