Tag Archives: art books

The Monday Book: TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME by Carol Rifka Brunt

wolvesThis is a complicated book. Its central character is 14 and has that bouncy back-and-forthness of wisdom and childhood coming out in lovely sentences like “That’s what being shy feels like. Like my skin is too thin, the light too bright. Like the best place I could possibly be is in a tunnel far under the cool, dark earth.”

The book is about June, her older sister Greta, their late Uncle Finn, and Finn’s partner Toby. Finn is June and Greta’s mother’s brother, and both adults are talented artists. But one is doing taxes and one is dying of AIDS. Like I said, it’s complicated.

The writing is beautiful. Some of the main points are kind of unbelievable–like two girls from Westchester can get up in the middle of the night and drive to Bellevue without their parents noticing, etc. But overall the emotional range of the characters and the plot driven by their needs, angers, and hopes holds up well. Everybody wants something. Not everybody can say what they want, or why they don’t want some of their other family members not to get what they want. That’s the point around which the action rotates.

If you like character-driven drama, you will love this book. If you remember ’80s AIDS–ignoring, exploring, deploring–you will love this book. If you have no patience with unresolved plot points, you might not. There are some loose threads left dangling, but as Stephen King says, “Life has a lot of those. Why shouldn’t writing?”

The weirdest part for me, but the part that many reviewers liked the most, is how the sisters used a painting their uncle had done of them to communicate with each other. Worth a lot on the art market, the girls deface it to send coded messages when words fail them. It was an intriguing take on the art book genre.

Overall, I love the way Brunt writes, and how intensely she draws her main characters. One paintbrush up for TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME.

 

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Liz Weir’s Monday Book

So y’all know that I’m holed up in West Virginia in a gorgeous luxury flat, typing away at a new book. As I won’t be getting much else done these three months, friends and fellow writers have stepped in to cover the Monday book through March. Liz Weir is the first – a longtime friend and magnificent storyteller. Take it away, Liz!

I wonder what American readers will make of this book, gifted to me by my daughter for Christmas?

lost wordsA sumptuously illustrated, coffee-table sized book, which contains magic within its pages. Inspired by the decision of the Oxford Junior Dictionary to remove 50 ”nature” words from its pages to replace them with words such as “broadband” and “attachment” . It has been recognised that there is a connection between the decline in natural play and children’s wellbeing so for me this is a partial antidote.

In this book Robert MacFarlane decided to explore words from the wild and with illustrator Jackie Morris they have produced a beautifully crafted book which helps young and old alike reconnect with wild experiences. The illustrations in watercolour and goldleaf do perfect justice to the text. It should be pored over rather than read cover to cover at one sitting, containing as it does acrostic “spell” poems intended to be read out loud, stunning images and a richness of language often lost to many of us.

Words like “acorn”, “bramble”, “kingfisher” “heather”, words which roll off the tongue, and yet which can so easily be forgotten. Often we talk and write about conservation but unless we retain the words to describe the beauties of the natural world they can disappear from our conversation.

Apart from the delight of simply exploring its pages I intend to use the book to work with young people during creative writing sessions. While I generally try to encourage them to find the very “best” words when writing poems, Lost Words will provide an added stimulus.

Visually, it is a lovely book, and while the librarian in me might ask where folks will shelve this large tome, I urge people to acquire a copy for the sheer delight of exploring it. The author encourages readers to “seek, find and speak”. Please do!

As one who is very reticent about letting other people choose my books I realise that my daughter knows me very well. What better gift for a storyteller and lover of language, or in my opinion for anyone?

Liz Weir is a storyteller from the Antrim Glens in Northern Ireland. Visit her website.

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Meanwhile, in Classics…..

book of snobsWe installed the Second Story Cafe in our bookstore just over a year ago, and making that possible meant moving things around. Among the stuff that shifted in The Great Upheaval were the Classics, Art, Theatre, and Writing books. They all went upstairs to the place formerly known as “Jack and Wendy’s bedroom,” and spread themselves about in a dignified manner as we tore the rest of upstairs apart, getting the dining room and kitchen set up on either side of them.

Which means they are now isolated up there, poor things, all alone, a little island of thought in a sea of food.

Me being me, I worried. “What if we don’t sell as many? We always sold a lot of Classics before, and now they’ll be the only books up there, isolated, unable to socialize with the other genres ….”

“Steady on, dear!” Jack said. “They’re books, remember? They aren’t living things that think; they provoke thought in living things.”

Jack says our Classics sales may actually have increased since they moved up the stairs. “Perhaps they’ve moved up the ladder as well, getting noticed more.”

Me, I’m thinking that the sweet little students in scruffy hats, and the happy retirees in scruffy coats,  who used to buy our Classics don’t eat out much, but maybe when they do, they favor soup. Our Good Chef Kelley makes three soups every day, and I see a lot of the Barricade Brigade up there, not even removing their fingerless gloves as they enjoy soup in the garret while reading Les Miserables.

Come to think of it, I suppose the Classics do feel at home in their new quarters Certainly they no longer have to mix with the riffraff down on the shop’s main floor–the cheap science fiction tramps in beat-up paperbacks; the lurid thriller covers of horror; the demure looking girls, long lashes resting against cheeks as eyes cast down, gracing the covers of the Amish romances.

God save us from the Amish romances…..

No, really, I worried unnecessarily about the “isolation” of Classics upstairs. They’ve been waiting all their life for A Room of Their Own.

They never wanted to socialize with the other genres anyway. Snobs.

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