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”

Demons Are a Ghouls Best Friend by Victoria Laurie

Book cover of Demons are a ghouls best friendWhen professional medium MJ Holliday hears that a boarding school in Upstate New York is being haunted by a terrifying phantom, she and her business partners rush out to banish the bad guy. With the help of the Lake Placid townsfolk and a friendly specter named Eric, MJ attempts to learn the truth about the ghostly “Hatchet Jack” and save the school from another terrifying semester.

There is a lot to love about Demons Are a Ghoul’s Best Friend — engaging characters (from the ghosts to the parrot), a romantic entanglement and a few hair-raising moments that will have you sleeping with the lights on, at least for a few nights. While reading about MJ and her pals, keep in mind that author Victoria Laurie is a professional psychic. This fact gives the book a bizarre credibility — and, besides that, it’s just cool.

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 Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton

slaves1.jpgHamilton’s best-known title is Hangover Square, but I think that the recently re-printed The Slaves of Solitude may be a better introduction to his genius to most readers, with its more measured, benevolent view of human folly and its sympathetic heroine — the sober, bewildered Miss Roach. Having fled the bombings, Roach returns from London each night to a boarding house in a quiet suburb where she and her fellow inmates are nightly subjected to the spectacular boorishness of Mr. Thwaites, a devastating literary creation that had me wincing and gasping as I might over the jaw-dropping sallies of Borat, or of Ricky Gervais in the original British version of The Office. For a moment it seems as though some respite is at hand when a hard-drinking American lootenant brashly courts our Miss with disarming ham-fisted vigor; enter Vickie Kugelman, a German immigrant who threatens her place in the yank’s affections and joins league with the Dickensian Thwaites in waging an insidious war of insinuations and slights upon Roach. Hamilton’s psychological insight is keen, and he clearly relishes tying his characters in knots of their own devising. The moments of discovery, exasperation and triumph are sublime; I recall dissolving into gales of laughter over a pitch perfect rumination that simply read “Oh…Oh…Oh…” This perceptive comedy of manners is a sheer delight.

Tesla in the air!

image of nikola tesla grafittiEvery so often, someone will approach me at the library and ask for information about Nikola Tesla, often in the kind of knowing way that people ask about Bigfoot or aliens, rather than a scientist and inventor. Occasionally they’ll bend close and add in hushed tones that they want the straight dope about his death ray, earthquake machine or some other wildly fantastical top secret gadget. So just who is this mythic modern Prometheus whose wild inventions, preternatural genius and poignant life have proved so fascinating to so many?

 Tesla in Fiction: