Recently I’ve been musing about repeat reads and authors whose work I relish so much I look forward to the next almost as soon as I’ve finished their most recent. Some authors, of course, have passed, so there won’t be any new entries from them: Mary Stewart, Willa Cather, Lewis Carroll and O. Henry come to mind. These writers are some who are the reason many people re-read.
Others, however, are current and it’s not been too long since reading and enjoying the stories that leapt from their imaginations or ideas and contemplations sprung to mind upon reviewing accounts of historical figures. Some authors have appeared at this blog more than once, others just a single time, and occasionally I wonder about the worlds they’ve all created or expanded, perhaps the characters or settings: how they might have grown since we’ve last met, or the manner in which we might regard each other since last crossing paths? How might other people perceive them?
So last night I perused some entries from May and June in other years, eventually deciding to showcase a few once more—for the benefit of those who’ve seen them and not. Especially now, in this season of a little respite for many of us (even if only in smaller ways), people are beginning to contemplate summer reading. Of course this goes on for other reasons year-long, so I thought it would be fun to kick it off as a series now, when the warmer weather is making its presence known, drawing us out to decks and yards, to gardens and beyond to revel in the glorious outdoors with the expanse of the sky to signal the limitless possibilities of what we might find in the “golden afternoon.”
Beirut Nightmares by Ghada al-Samman
During a two-week long subconflict of the Lebanese Civil War, al-Samman’s protagonist finds herself trapped in her apartment by competing snipers stationed within nearby buildings during the 1975 Battle of the Hotels. She experiences a series of dreams that begin to merge with her waking world and forces her to confront reflections of herself and the society she not only inhabits but also contributed to. Within events through the fortnight period, al-Samman explores the identity of place and how it affects those within as well as the cost of re-birth.
“Where” exactly an author is coming from, it has become more and more clear in literary studies, often is influenced by geographical location, although not merely a physical space as defined by political boundaries. To be sure, this indeed plays a part in an individual’s sense of identity. However, the topography of a “mental map” serves to create a sense of self as well, and its formation is influenced by a variety of factors, such as the past; emerging or existing words or phrases with nuances peculiar to geographic location; currents events; how and in what way individuals view themselves as well as how they perceive and remember others. Click here to read more.
The Hour of Parade by Alan Bray
One of only two actual reviews in today’s collection, The Hour of Parade sees Alexi Ruzhensky journey in later winter of 1806 to Munich with intent to avenge his brother’s death by killing Lieutenant Louis Valsin, the French cavalry officer who’d recently cut young Mischa down in a duel. Very soon after the novel’s opening Ruzhensky meets up with the concept of a small world when he runs into two soldiers from Valsin’s regiment, necessitating his rapid entry into the scenario he has fabricated as cover: that his father had business dealings in Austria and he means to straighten out his family’s financial affairs.
In these moments author Alan Bray creates a palpable tension for the Russian officer as well as readers, who can sense his apprehension as “the dead and the unknown living” both seem so near to his current moment, the vivid imagery erupts into scenes that overcome his awareness. Click here to read more.
The First Lie by Virginia King, Guest Post: “Rocking with Rocks”
This novel from Australian author Virginia King may be set mainly on Hawaii, but reminds us that Down Under many are pulling out their warmer clothing in preparation for the onset of winter. Lucky for readers, curling up in a nice corner with a great book is also a yummy proposition. And while this guest post leans toward the author’s sequel, The Second Path, whereas I actually reviewed The First Lie, I include it here because it does carry our theme of re-visiting old literary friends—plus I really loved King’s analysis of rock symbolism, and I think you will too.
“The symbolism of objects has always fascinated me. My love of folklore means there’s always a mythical twist to my modern mysteries and ‘magic objects’ with fairy tale credentials often link up to form a matrix of clues. Such as rocks.
In Selkie Moon’s second mystery The Second Path the symbolism of rocks came to me, setting up a chain reaction of events in the story. It’s a good example of how an idea implants itself in the subconscious and multiplies into a theme.” Click here to read more.
March to Destruction (Book II in The Emperor’s American series) by Art McGrath
In addressing how he came to write about an American serving in Napoleon’s Grande Armée, author Art McGrath references his quest to discover how such a circumstance might come to be. “It was discovery through writing, and while it may sound like a cliché, it was as if Pierre Burns was standing over my shoulder telling his story. He wanted to be discovered.”
In March to Destruction, superb sequel to McGrath’s The Emperor’s American, the author indeed employs the Method philosophy to tell Burns’s story—in fact, so effectively that readers would be forgiven for believing this to be the memoir of a real historical figure. Since the series’ opening novel, Burns’s—excuse me, McGrath’s—narrative has tightened as he further employs an economy perhaps reflective of the manner in which a soldier’s self awareness might utilize minimum movement to ultimately provide maximum advancement. Click here to read more.
Author Spotlight: A Study and Some Personal Experiences of Lewis Carroll
“Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Just about every adult and nearly as many children have heard this cryptic question, though the answer is shrouded in time, lost documents, hearsay and conjecture. Alice herself probed some very curious matters and her beloved creator, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson—better known as Lewis Carroll—seemed to have no end to puzzles and queries with which to bend our minds and provide all sorts of intrigue: a little something for everybody.
However, Dodgson was much more than a quirky children’s author. He was also a mathematician and logician, artist and Anglican cleric who served as a don at Oxford University. In his time the art of photography was in its infancy, and Dodgson was a keen practitioner, later running a successful studio that produced about 3,000 images, though many have been lost.
Dodgson taught mathematics at Christ Church College and, like today’s learners, many of the students were accustomed to blocking the possibility that they could do well in mathematics. He created fun ideas and games to help make the material less dense and dull, as well as syllogisms to aid in the study of logic.
From childhood, even before I fully understood what I was absorbing into my brain, I found Dodgson’s life and career to be fascinating and filled with worlds of information from nearly every discipline. Dodgson was also an artist and he inspired me to give the form a serious study, so for one year I focused utterly and completely on drawing. Click here to read more.
While there are a few other entries in May and June of previous years, by necessity there are limitations to what could be included here. However, at least two of those authors will be re-visiting the blog, so do keep your eyes peeled! Also, I probably did review others within this time in at least one other year (2015), but they don’t appear via the archives because at that point I’d switched to another host, only to return here a year later. Bit by bit I’ve been re-posting those reviews, so I think they have all by now been added, though in other months on the calendar than initially.
To see other reviews from this or any other time period, see the archive drop down button in the right sidebar. And until next time, happy reading!
(A little something for everybody.)