Set in the research archives of the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, surrounded by medicinal gardens and literary treasures, this novel follows Ann Stilwell, a recent graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla, who has just had her summer curatorship saved by a researcher interested in arcana, specifically early tarot decks. Patrick is lead researcher, and Rachel is another student curator from Yale. Whereas Ann has worked hard to get where she is, Rachel was born into wealth. A debut novel perfect for any reader who loved Persuasion or The Name of the Rose.
Cliff attempts to murder his loathsome boss by pushing him into the path of a train. He's picked up by two plain clothes cops, who aren’t actually cops. Cliff is taken to The McMasters Conservatory of the Applied Arts, a school in an unknown location on a vast and beautiful acreage. He can choose to stay… or be eliminated. Cliff’s been given a full scholarship from an unknown benefactor to learn all the arts of “deletion” and to complete his “thesis” back in the real world. Two of his classmates also plan to murder their employers, following McMaster’s strict rules and ethics. Very arch, with snappy wordplay. Laugh out loud.
A customer told me about Spear. She loved Griffith's novel Hild as much as I did and said that Spear is a substantial novella. This epic is set in the 6th century, following our hero, Per, all the way to the court of King Arthur. In her own words, Griffith calls this Camelot "queered six ways from Sunday" yet, that is largely "peripheral." Griffith is a local author, and clearly enjoyed her research - there are some wonderful words: gralloched, geas, bog butter, shaving coins like a thief, skystone. The magic here is unlike anything else, it's fresh and sweet. Even though shorter than a novel, it's rich in detail: a fly is "hurrying by;" there are "skeins of geese" in the sky; midges that "darn the air."
A medical mystery is a rare and fun sub-genre and this one also brings suspense! Our protag is a very average Scottish student doctor and also a recovering addict on probation, newly hired at a chaotic – and inferior – London hospital. When there is a death that doesn't make sense and the police are called in, our protag feels like he's under suspicion and unnerved by it. He’s sort of fallen into all of this, including friendships and relationships, and his reluctance and low expectations fight with the fear he’ll end up accused, disgraced, maybe imprisoned, or something worse. Tiny, gruesome -- and true -- stories of real medical murderers throughout history are interspersed – an unexpected extra!
New collection by the great short story writer hovers on the dangerous edge of hilarity and horror. Settings and characterizations are weird in the best sense, and with such style! -- arch, taut, formal, recursive. Mid-century names and habits give the stories an out-of-timeness. In many, perspective seems to pour like fluid from one character to another.
I can’t pick a favorite, but the title story, Liberation Day, was vivid to me, with a “sound wall” and the creation of an artform for entertainment in which captive storytellers and aleatoric singers perform a fearsome first person account of Custer’s Last Stand to guests who are uncomfortable with their complicity (unless the performance is good). Using an upgraded pipe to stored information, our protagonist is still an artist who asks, “What is lush? What is bold, what is daring? In which direction lies maximum richness, abundance, delight?" There is compassion here for the confused and complicit, but Saunders leaves justice out of it.
The author of Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, gives us this lush and mysterious tale that is much more than a retelling of H. G. Wells' - and so needed! Moreno-Garcia sets the story in the Yucatan and its fraught racial-economic caste conflicts provide a real background to the intimate story she creates around Carlota, Dr. Moreau's daughter. The novel is relationship-driven, with empathy and kindness that brings incredible richness and nuance. I read Mexican Gothic and loved it, even though it's not a genre I typically read - but I loved this one even more!
I LOVED this story of Dick Conant, who spent the last years of his life living at the river’s edge making epic journeys via canoe. Ben McGrath is a writer for The New Yorker who met Conant once, and after his disappearance, read his idiosyncratic journals to meet the people Conant knew in order to understand the mythic presence Conant created around himself. Moving.
Cress Watercress adventures into Hunter's Wood with her mother, and her little brother Kip. Cress is frustrated and sometimes frightened by her new surroundings and the new creatures she encounters. There's humor, along with some menace, in this complex neighborhood and Cress is no simple bunny - she's taking risks and avoiding them too, wondering what to want and what's enough. Gregory Maguire's writing is energetic and surprising - every character has a distinctive voice: "Make a note of it!"The luminous, jewel-toned illustrations from David Litchfield saturate the pages and set this book entirely apart. I can't decide if this is a perfect solo-reading adventure or chapter-a-night read-aloud, but I loved Cress Watercress.
Essayist and poet Ni Ghriofa writes a loving autofiction of the sheer physicality of mothering and milk, along with an assay into the life of Eibhlin Dubh Ni Chonaill, AKA Eileen O'Connell, a well-born poet in 18th century Ireland who composed a traditional lament after her husband's murder. Ni Ghriofa pursues connection with this Eibhlin Dubh that goes beyond literary scholarship into something like love. Ni Ghriofa's prose is rich and layered, while magically direct and concrete.
Consider the audio version available from Libro.fm to hear the poem in Gaelic.
Allie Burns is a junior reporter at a Glasgow tabloid, investigating leads with her new pal Danny Sullivan and typing out copy at deadline. Well-paced and detailed, this journalistic mystery develops a great cast of characters and captures the era.
So many local Seattle details from the 1960s! A delicious, sweet story of food and friendship, told in letters. Includes recipes!
Longer-format non-fiction picture book – a favorite! About the amazing life of Sister Corita Kent, an amazing and tireless artist and teacher. Kent used many techniques, including screen printing, for her art that pursued themes of social justice and community.
Sykes is a paleolithic archeologist as well as a good science writer, giving context to findings and changing archeological methods. For example she relates Neanderthal body mechanics to their intake of calories and food choices. She asks, what if we discovered the first Neanderthal bones in 2010 when we had DNA and other tech along with more than a century of Darwin and evolution, as well as other hominid discoveries? Even if you keep up with Neanderthal discoveries in the news (like I do), this book is great for organizing those findings wholistically.
Bill Buford left publishing to pursue fine French cooking and to answer one historical question – is French cuisine, really in fact, Italian? This memoir is perfectly structured, fast and full of details of French life and food. Often funny, sometimes bittersweet, and occasionally showing the brutality that rages in the finest French restaurants, Buford shows us how method – from ingredients to presentation – is what makes French cooking unique.