Parallel stories

When Possession (A.S. Byatt) came out in 1990, readers of literary fiction swarmed libraries and bookstores to get copies of this story-within-a-story relating the modern day characters to famous people in the past. In Byatt’s tale, a scholar finds an old letter written by Randolph Ash, which leads him into delicious research that in turn reveals connections between that past and his present. Later Martha Cooley invented an even more intricately plotted story, The Archivist, in which a librarian at an Ivy League university guards the letters of T.S. Eliot to his lover, Emily Hale, from the eyes of the world – at least until 2020 when the letters’ owner will allow academic access to the collection. The archivist, Matthias Lane, did not anticipate the tenacity of Roberta Spire, however, and eventually the treasure trove is plundered. As a result, the relationship between Hale and Eliot comes to light, while simultaneously Lane’s past is revealed as he works through a new relationship with the much younger Roberta. The lives of those in the present mirror those under scrutiny. A trend toward this parallel story line novel yields a Continue reading “Parallel stories”

Cherry blossoms bloom herald the spring

kanji for cherry blossom 'hanami'The appearance of cherry blossoms marks the arrival of spring in Japan, sending revelers of all ages outdoors to enjoy wine and picnic lunches under flowery pink canopies in the nation’s parks and orchards. One cannot delay cherry blossom viewing, or “hanami,” because the cherry blossom is like life: beautiful and tragically fleeting.

image-of-girl-looking-at-cherry-blossoms-courtesy-of-piero-sierraIn Seattle, consumption of alcohol on public land may not fly as it does in Japan, but the beauty and fragrance of the cherry blossom is just as sweet! The year the Seattle Center will be holding its annual Cherry Blossom and Japanese Culture Festival on April 18 – 20, providing folks in our area with a chance to welcome the spring in this centuries-old tradition.

If the beauty and barbarism, poetry and mysticism of medieval Japan have captured your imagination this season, you may be interested in these books and movies available at The Seattle Public Library.

 

Literature

A fantasy set in a world that closely resembles medieval Japan, this first book in the series Tales of the Otori provides an engrossing blend of history and magic that will leave readers anxious for the sequel. Our hero, Takeo, begins this story as a young man whose village was destroyed by an evil warlord. Tests of loyalty, romantic intrigue, secret cults, assassins, Continue reading “Cherry blossoms bloom herald the spring”

The War in Fiction, part 3: The Pacific

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A war is not one story, but many.

Here are some novels that view the war through many eyes, reflecting the diverse experiences of civilians and soldiers around the world whose lives were drawn into the Second World War.

When Louis Belk is deployed to Alaska to head off and diffuse a barrage of dreaded Japanese balloon bombs, he could not have imagined the strange, haunting freight drifting towards him across an ocean of air.

As the world stumbles blinking into the light of peace, Aldred Leith feels the chill of war’s long shadow as he surveys a devastated Japan, wondering how human warmth and dignity can flare forth from the ashes. Continue reading “The War in Fiction, part 3: The Pacific”

The War in Fiction, part 2: The Home Front

prisoners.bmpA War is not one story, but many.

Here is the second of three lists of fiction that views the war through many eyes, reflecting the diverse experiences of civilians and soldiers around the world whose lives were drawn into the Second World War.

As the war draws to its close, the lives of men and women in a rural Kentucky town are indelibly changed whether they are returning from the front lines or waiting back at home.

Humor and pathos punctuate this coming-of-age novel in which Josh, a witty 17-year-old, navigates Continue reading “The War in Fiction, part 2: The Home Front”

The War in fiction, part 1: Europe

beardless.jpgA War is not one story, but many.

Here is the first of three lists of fiction that views the war through many eyes, reflecting the diverse experiences of civilians and soldiers around the world whose lives were drawn into the Second World War.

  • Articles of War by Nick Arvin. Sent to Normandy in 1944, Iowa farm boy George ‘Heck’ Tilson’s all-too-human response to the war’s perilous chaos – to run away – will lead him through the fire towards an unforeseen and terrible duty.
  • Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris. Now sixty and a widow, Framboise Dartigen returns to her childhood village in France, to uncover painful secrets in her family’s past, and her mother’s curious relationship with the town’s German occupiers.
  • The Stalin Front by Gert Ledig. Eastern front veteran Ledig fully conveys the nightmarish enormity of total war in this gut-wrenching novel of the hell unleashed on earth when Hitler Continue reading “The War in fiction, part 1: Europe”