Blog post alert: Kathleen Jennings has a long, amusing, and excellent post on Some elements of ghost stories. Instead of piggy-backing too much on Jennings, however, I chose a picture form John Muth's Zen Ghosts (which includes a Japanese ghost story) because I love both the story and the art.
Picturing a World
A review by Kate Macdonald sent me to my interlibrary loan catalogue and, sure enough, I could borrow Comet Weather by Liz Williams. So I did. I loved it and went back to search for its sequel, Blackthorn Winter. No go. I'd have to buy it. Hmm. There were two more titles in the Fallow Sisters series— I took a chance and bought all four. Am I ever glad!
Letters to Camondo by Edmund de Waal, the July selection for my public library's book club, is a book about archives and memory, memorials and loss. I read it a first time with interest. A second reading to formulate discussion questions (see below) deepened my interest to admiration, sorrow, and gratitude.
I have just completed a set of discussion questions for my public library's April book club selection, The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros (see below). I read it in a library copy, then bought my own to reread—along with The Seasoning, which I'm reading now with great satisfaction. To catch how you should hear her stories, listen to her reading aloud the opening of Nebo.
How I wish I had known Camille Claudel's Bathers when I sent Jeanette, Amy, and Emily skinny-dipping in Where the Light Falls! It's only one of a hundred images and ideas to spark imagination in the wide-ranging Hokusai's Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon by Christine Guth. I began reading the book in conjunction with, Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence, an exhibition open at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston through July 16, 2023. I'm finding that it sends me back to Jeanette and Paris.
My copy of Little, Big (to which I subscribed in 2008!) arrived last week; and, oh, yes, it was worth the wait. The interplay of John Crowley's text and Peter Milton's art is just what they hoped: the illustrations are independent of the text and yet they illuminate. In fact, earlier this week, I woke up and saw out my window a Peter Milton landscape. My bedroom window looks up a field to a row of white pine trees. In the gray light of early morning, light snow had fallen and the scene might as well have been one of his etchings. When a book makes you see through its eyes, well, what could be better?
Book alert: I've been rereading Andrey Kurkov's Grey Bees and liking it even more the second time around. Today my copy of his Diary of an Invasion arrived and already I have learned that by January 3, 2022, workers from the eastern part of Ukraine who might once have gone to Russia had begun going to Western Europe instead, a fact that he thought might be worrying Putin. So much we don't understand about that war, no matter how many daily headlines are given to it! And how splendid, if heartbreaking, to learn about it from such a gifted observer and novelist!
My latest reading from the books I gave myself at Christmas is the new YA fantasy, Tyger by S. F. Said. It is set at Midwinter in the harsh London of an alternative universe, where Muslims must live in a Ghetto and aristocrats own slaves. It is anti-colonial, for sure, and demonstrates the harm done by in prejudice and injustice. Yet unlike R. F. Kuang's Babel (see previous post), it is full of love, courage, and loyalty.
R. F. Kuang's Babel has scope and ambition. Its plot moves with many melodramatic surprises. I wanted to like it. Too soon, however, it became apparent that it was driven primarily by anger at the all-too-obvious injustices of colonialism. To be fair, such concerns suit the taste of readers who value politics over other aspects of art. I don't.