I am greatly honored to have met, and spent some quality time with, both the author, Ivan Szendro, and his Inspiration, Gabri’El Alice Stollman, of Alice in the Upperland, a colorful, creative and truly mythic book. Ivan is a Shaman and Gabri’El is an Artist. They share a deep connection with Hungary and the timeless heroic tradition that is the heritage of all of humanity.
You can read the book in two ways, from the bottom up (which gives you a sense of uplifting ascent) or, later on, from the top down (which is the way we’ve been conditioned to read things). I recommend both approaches, if only to discover that there is indeed a difference. For me there was a noticeable shift in consciousness while reading it upside-down similar to a mild meditative state.
On one level, Alice in the Upperland is the personal tale of a girl growing up in Queens during the post-war era. She is an American of Hungarian and Jewish descent. Her father, whom she idolizes, is a police officer who has embraced, and realized, the American Dream. Alice is, by temperament, a Dreamer and enjoys exploring the imaginal worlds within herself as well as experiencing our social construct. Wonder Woman is her hero-guide. A pivotal event in Alice’s young life is meeting the famous Hopalong Cassidy through her father.
On another level, this work demonstrates how myths are woven into the very fabric of our lives, whether we acknowledge them or not. Sometimes the myths remain unrecognized, but nonetheless they’re there. Alice’s father, a practical no-nonsense type of person, is clearly the embodiment and expression of a heroic personage. As is Hopalong Cassidy, but in a totally different way. Both combine with Wonder Woman, the American Dream, the post-war gestalt and tales from her ancestry to enrich Alice’s inner life until she births her own heroic persona: Gabri’El! Once that is accomplished, she is free to be her own hero and live her own legend.
On yet another level this is book is an open invitation, with some truly helpful hints, on taking this journey yourself. It is not easy, and it involves continuously moving past your comfort zones, but it is certainly worth taking.
Alice in the Upperland is also part of Ivan’s personal legend, which he shares before Alice’s adventure begins. And by buying the book, you join Ivan’s saga by helping him to restore the town where he learned Shamanism and started living his own unique myth.
Miklos Felvideki illustrated this poetic work of collaborative art with images evocative of the comic books of the era. As this book is multi-leveled and experiential, several readings are recommended.
Note: My adventure with Ivan and Gabri’El continues. I now sit on the Board of their shamanic non-profit, The Legend of You, and most recently participated in several mytho-heroic Happenings inspired by the book at the Gitana Rosa Galley in Piermont, New York. Gabri’El and Ivan have both joined this year’s Quest for the Golden Fleece as Argonauts and our journey together has inspired me to re-launch our Champions of Olympus Superhero Initiative.
(c) Hercules Invictus