Susan Cooper reads “The Shortest Day” in Rhinebeck during Sinterklaas

Susan Cooper (photo by Tsar Fedorsky)

Among all the riches offered up for our enjoyment as part of the Sinterklaas festivities in Rhinebeck on Saturday, here’s one that you must not let escape your notice, if you’re any kind of a fan at all of fantasy literature: Susan Cooper, author of the much-loved, Newbery Medal-winning five-book series The Dark Is Rising, will be on hand at Oblong Books & Music to do a reading of her poem “The Shortest Day.” Illustrated volumes of the work will be available for sale and signing, along with a selection of Cooper’s other works.

Born in Buckinghamshire, Cooper learned to love literature in the family bomb shelter as her mother read aloud by candlelight to pass the time during the Blitz. Holiday visits to her grandmother’s native village in Wales exposed her to ancient Celtic and Arthurian lore that made its way into her writing. She went to lectures by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien while attending Oxford University, worked with Ian Fleming at the Sunday Times, eventually moved to Massachusetts, where she still lives. She’s the widow of actor Hume Cronyn, with whom she wrote the play Foxfire and whom she married following the death of his wife of 50 years, actress Jessica Tandy.

“The Shortest Day,” a celebration of the Winter Solstice, was written at the behest of John Langstaff, founder of the long-running Boston-based Yuletide pageant known as the Revels (a likely source of inspiration for the founders of Sinterklaas). It’s recited onstage at every winter performance by every Revels troupe worldwide. Hearing the poem read aloud by its revered author is a rare treat, not to be missed!

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Susan Cooper: “The Shortest Day” – A Reading to Herald the Winter Solstice, Saturday, Dec. 7, 3 p.m., Free, Oblong Books & Music, 6422 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck, https://bit.ly/38cIpxg