Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The more places you'll go

As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” 
This summer I’ve travelled the globe! Anatolia, Russia, Mexico, Vietnam, New York City and China; witnessed the decline of the Ottoman empire, oppression in Stalinist Russia and pillow talk in the court of Imperial China.

Fiction was for the holidays, with long periods of time and no interruptions as we travelled port to port. Bursts of non-fiction were great, I could focus for 20 minutes and then turn my view to the scenery. No book club meetings, so nothing I felt I 'had' to read.

Birds Without Wings, by Louis de Bernières 
Published after 9/11, the author tells the story of the fall of the Ottoman Empire through the eyes of his characters. Christians and Muslims had lived together peacefully for centuries in a small coastal town before war and political ideologies destroyed their community and uprooted lives. 

The Avenue of Mysteries, by John Irving
A "dump kid' teaches himself how to read while his sister reads minds. Nunneries, monasteries, and circuses are colourful sets for strong characters. 

The Noise of Time, by Julian Barnes
A slim volume easily read in a few hours, the story lingers. What must it have been like for Shostakovich, to suffer the whims of Stalin? How did he feel about Stravinsky, who left Russia and became popular in America? Why did he stay when he so often feared for his life? The author bases his story on letters and historical details, while acknowledging the book remains a work of fiction.

The Art of the Personal Essay by Phillip Lopate 
Fabulous collection of essays written in different times and places and written from a strictly personal point of view. It is quite incredible how modern some of the ancient voices sound, such as Sei Shonagan as she complains about mosquitoes buzzing at night and thoughtless lovers leaving noisily. Musings from Plutarch and Seneca and Virginia Wolf and Annie Dilliard. An extraordinary collection that I am so glad caught my eye one day in the bookstore. 

Luck, Lapham’s Quarterly
This edition seems especially well-curated.....The history of handicapping. When every decision is the wrong decision. Meeting the fates. Salvation from unexpected places. Master paintings. Interpreting dreams for fun and profit. 

Irreverent, hilarious, maddening, informative, entertaining... 

My latest tour through these pages has inspired me to pick up volumes by Roethke, Stevie Smith, and Adrienne Rich. 

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