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”

Hike Seattle

Happy Earth Day! All over Seattle, the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds – spring is finally here! What better time to get out on the trails and explore the beautiful landscapes of the Pacific Northwest? Whether you are a seasoned hiker or novice, there are plenty of resources to help you find the perfect destination for an hour, a day, or a weekend.

One of my favorite guides is 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Seattle by Andrew Weber and Bryce Stevens.  Featuring not only well-known hikes, such as Mt. Si and Wallace Falls State Park, but also lesser-known destinations such as O. O. Denny County Park Loop and the Heybrook Lookout Trail, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles includes maps, driving directions, and trail descriptions highlighting points of interest.

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Strangeness in the Stacks

cover image of bizarre booksOne of the best things about working in a big library that has been around for a century or so is all the odd and curious old titles one stumbles over in our own vast collection. If you want a sense of what I’m talking about, check out Russell Ash & Brian Lake’s Bizarre Books: A Compendium of Classic Oddities. Here you will find such deathless and unintentionally funny titles as Scouts in Bondage by Geoffrey Prout, A Glowing and Graphic Description of the Great Hole by Mrs. D.U.C. and The Romance of Proctology by Charles Elton Blanchard. What a wonderful world in which titles like Sarah Pomeroy’s Little Known Sisters of Well Known Men, Ray Huang’s 1587: A Year of No Signficance or Ethel Brilliana Tweedie’s My Tablecloths Continue reading “Strangeness in the Stacks”

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.

The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo

One of my favorite books in our poetry section isn’t a book of poetry at all. Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town gathers nine brief lectures, essays and “sentimental reminiscences” by the beloved Seattle writer. I’m not a poet and I don’t plan to become one, but Hugo’s ideas are so wise and clear, and his humor and candor are so appealing that I suspect a lot of readers will enjoy this. Writers certainly will find plenty to think about here, and will jot down many of Hugo’s rules of thumb, such as “Use number 2 pencils … Don’t erase. Cross out rapidly and violently, never with slow consideration if you can help it.” Or “Use ‘love’ as a transitive verb for the first fifteen years.” Come to think of it, that last one is good advice for non-writers too. There is some great pragmatic discussion of being an artist in the material world (Hugo worked for Boeing for many years) and interesting local touches (for more see Hugo’s autobiography, The Real West Marginal Way, and the documentary film Richard Hugo: Kicking the Loose Gravel Home.) The wonderful chapter about Theodore Roethke, who taught Hugo at U.W. back in the 1940s, may leave you wanting more, and Straw for the Fire, fellow student David Wagoner’s recent collection from Roethke’s own notebooks, fits the bill perfectly.