A cache of old letters. Research to uncover a secret or reconstruct a life. Narration of the search itself. These are the familiar elements of fiction from Henry James's The Aspern Papers to modern novels like The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. Novelist, short-story writer, and poet, Elaine Fowler Palencia didn't invent such a story; she lived it. The result is On Rising Ground, her narrative of the life of one ordinary man and his experience as a private in the Confederate Army. Ostensibly narrow in focus, it is also wide in scope and written in response to the questions a novelist as well as a family historian would ask.
Picturing a World
In November, I bought the new 25th Anniversary edition of Philip Pullman's Northern Lights for its woodcut illustrations by Chris Wormell. The book was a Christmas present to myself, which I saved for reading after New Year's Day. I'm finding that it does indeed enhance the reading to turn the page to a spectacular illustration like the one shown here. (As it happens, Wormell's color palette is reflected in a fascinating post at Gurney Journey on Polar Stratospheric Clouds.)
Blog post alert: While the nation is going through hell (with hopes of better days to come, whether paradisiacal or merely purgatorial), it's a timely happenstance that the Uffizi Gallery in Florence has digitized a set of 16th C illustrations of all three books of Dante's Commedia. Read the History Blog's Rarely-seen Dante illustrations digitized for more information and links.
Blog post alert: In 2020, Drēma Drudge, author of a lively blog about fiction and art, published a novel, Victorine with Fleur-de-Lis Press, which brings out first books by writers who have been featured in The Louisville Review. This historical novel is based on the life of Victorine Meurent, one of Édouard Manet's models who was a painter herself. All the arts are now and always have been hard, but they are more than deeply rewarding—they are necessary. Thanks, Drema, for reminding us of the stories hidden in the past and for keeping them alive through your own creativity today.
Website alert: Geograph is a project that posts photographs of Great Britain and Ireland by Ordnance Survey grid squares. If you want to know what a place looks like or tour a region on line, it's a great resource. And some of the images from its more than 13,000 contributors might inspire you to take an imaginary journey into the unknown—like this amazing cloud formation from Derek Dye!
Just when you think you've seen everything, an insurrectionist mob overruns the U. S. Capitol. And just when you think you know a field, along comes something major to shake up your over-confidence. Last night, after following the news closely all day, I escaped into rereading Elswyth Thane's Tryst. Sabrina, the heroine finds a book, The Gods of Pegana, in the mysterious Hilary's locked bedroom. The title looked vaguely familiar, but I sure didn't know the book. Well, my Mattie would!
I thought of posting this yesterday for New Year's Day 2021 because it suggests mysterious possibilities and because I like to give readers a valuable takeaway—in this case, a link to the Vogue magazine archives. Yesterday's insouciant skaters seemed more fun, but, now imagine them on their way back, where? What to make of those shoes in the snow? Graphically, I love the cocker spaniel at the bottom. Does he fit into the story?
Happy New Year! May we all soon be as insouciant (if not quite so elegant or athletically accomplished) as these two ladies!
Charles Dickens did not begin the custom of telling ghost stories at Christmas, but his Christmas Carol must be the most famous. On New Year's Eve Eve, I'm posting this illustration of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come by Lisbeth Zwerger because its minimalism seems to me to capture the unknown quality of the future better than the images that make the ghost look scary as a Harry Potter dementor.
On my walk yesterday, I talked with a friend—outdoors at six feet apart—who is planning to celebrate Christmas next July when her family can gather safely. Then this morning while I was mulling blog topics, I happened across Miss Jasper's Garden illustrated by one of my artists, N. M. Bodecker. Perfect. In this time of pandemic, why not a momentary break to July at Christmas?