Monday, April 3, 2017

Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders: A Review!

On February 22, 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln was laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, Abraham Lincoln arrives at the cemetery under cover of darkness and visits the crypt, alone, to spend time with his son’s body. 

Set over the course of that one night and populated by ghosts of the recently passed and the long dead, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief, the powers of good and evil, a novel - in its form and voice - completely unlike anything you have read before. It is also, in the end, an exploration of the deeper meaning and possibilities of life, written as only George Saunders can: with humor, pathos, and grace.

U.S. Hardcover343 pages
Published February 14th 2017 by Random House, ISBN  0812995341 

Willie Lincoln, 1862, Library of Congress

“(So why grieve? The worst of it, for him, is over.) Because I loved him so and am in the habit of loving him and that love must take the form of fussing and worry and doing. Only there is nothing left to do. Free” 
― George SaundersLincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln In The Bardo is filled with beautifully written ghostly dialogues between three central spirits who generally hang around the cemetery (mostly in the 'stone house' - the spirits word for mausoleum) where the newly passed eleven year old Willie Lincoln is being interred. He was the third born son to then President Abraham Lincoln and wife Mary Todd Lincoln who died on February 20, 1862.

President Lincoln paid several visits, within a forty-eight hour period,  to his son's 'stone-house' so he could be near him. George Saunders research states that President Lincoln opened his son's 'sick-box' (ghosts word for coffin) and touched his son's hair, prayed over him, and spoke to him. Saunders goes further with the emotions between father and son including ethereally written dialogues and thoughts from ghostly Willie's perspective.

There are so many moving scenes held within, Lincoln In The Bardo that I cannot go into much more detail. However, please understand that there are three characters, in the form of ghosts, providing various different story lines that reflect their lives before and leading up to their own deaths. So, be prepared to read more characters and stories besides President Lincoln and his son.  Don't worry there are many humorous scenes that made me laugh out loud. So, please don't think that this is a novel filled with death and sadness. On the contrary, George Saunders reflects a positive and nurturing side to such topics as:  illness, turmoil, tragedy, suffering, loss, and grief.

I will be sure to read everything else the author writes!

To purchase Lincoln In The Bardo in the United States, Amazon

To purchase Lincoln In The Bardo in the United Kingdom, Amazon UK

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Emily Dickinson: An American Enigma – Review of I’m Nobody! Who are you? The Life and Poetry of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) The Morgan Library & Museum, January 20 through May 28, 2017.

"Who has not found the Heaven below will fail of it above. For Angels rent the house next ours, wherever we remove.” Lovingly Emily (Included in a letter from Emily Dickinson to her niece, Martha Dickinson and friend Sally Jenkins, 1883).

Family meant everything to Emily Dickinson as evidenced through her surviving correspondence hanging on the pink floral wallpaper in the replica period rooms of The Morgan Library exhibition.  Included on the wall, was a small framed engraving of poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning which turned out to be one of Dickinson’s favorite poets. Framed under glass was the 1848 edition of Currer Bell’s, Jane Eyre. Dickinson borrowed this copy from her father’s business partner, Elbridge Bowdoin. She returned it to him with this note,

“If all the leaves were altars, and on every one a prayer that Currer Bell might be saved and you were God would you answer it?” Bowdoin did not reply to Dickinson, instead noted, “the leaves mentioned were Box leaves sent to me in a little bouquet.” These are just some of the aspects of the woman behind this fascinating poet.

Emily Dickinson's brother, William Austin Dickinson

I found myself standing in front of numerous framed Dickinson correspondence written to her family members: her handsome brother, William Austin Dickinson, her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert Dickinson, her sister, Lavinia Dickinson as well as other personal friends throughout her life. As I read through her letters on exhibit, I couldn’t help but giggle to myself because of her wry and warm sense of humour. For instance, when her sister Lavinia, returned home on the evening of June 27, 1873, from an organ concert by Howard Parkhurst, Emily penciled the lines of her poem, A Little Madness in the Spring, on the concert program:

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King
But God be with the clown
Who ponders this Tremendous scence
This sudden legacy of Green
As if it were his own-

She included such adjectives: gay/bright/quick/whole, swift/fleet.

Handwritten copies of her most well-known poem which the exhibition is named for, I’m Nobody! Who are you?, can be read in two framed handwritten pages.  For instance, in one version written around six months after the outbreak of the Civil War, she penciled in the word banish along the upper margin. Also the word advertise is penciled in the other handwritten version.

I was absolutely thrilled to be able to leaf through her private copy of her gardening book called, Herbarium. Her passion for flowers, herbs, and gardening was evident in her poetry and life as well as her bond of friendship and family which always seeped into her poems.

I urge everyone to visit The Morgan Library & Museum; especially for an unforgettable glimpse into the private world of this enigmatic woman and poet,  Emily Dickinson. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Currently Reading: Over The Hills And Far Away: The Life Of Beatrix Potter by Matthew Dennison

 US Publication Edition - Advanced Reading Copy
Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected publication: April 4th 2017 by Pegasus Books 
ISBN 1681773503
Beatrix Potter is one of the world's bestselling, most cherished authors, whose books have enchanted generations of children for over a hundred years. Yet how she achieved this legendary status is just one of several stories of Beatrix Potter's remarkable and unexpected life. 
Inspired by the twenty-three 'tales', Matthew Dennison takes a selection of quotations from Potter's stories and uses them to explore her multi-faceted life and character: repressed Victorian daughter; thwarted lover; artistic genius; formidable countrywoman. They chart her transformation from a young girl with a love of animals and fairy tales into a bestselling author and canny businesswoman, so deeply unusual for the Victorian era in which she grew up. 

Embellished with photographs of Potter's life and her own illustrations, this short biography will delight anyone who has been touched by Beatrix Potter's work.

 UK Hardcover Edition
Published October 6, 2016
Head of Zeus Publishing

You can expect a full review soon. I am enjoying reading 'Over the Hills and Far Away' immensely. Personally, I prefer the above US cover but to each his own, as the saying goes!  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A review of The Reception of Alfred Tennyson in Europe

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) has often been considered a particularly British writer in part as his official post as Poet Laureate inevitably committed him to a certain amount of patriotic writing. This volume focuses on his impact on the continent, presenting a major scholarly analysis of Tennyson's wider reception in different areas of Europe. It considers reader and critical responses and explores the effect of his poetry upon his contemporaries and later writers, as well as his influence upon illustrators, painters and musicians. The leading international contributors raise questions of translation and publication and of the choices made for this purpose along with the way in which his ideas and style influenced European writing and culture. Tennyson's reputation in Anglophone countries is now assured, following a decline in the years after his death. This volume enables us to chart the changes in Tennyson's European reputation during the later 19th, 20th and 21st centuries

Published: 11-17-2016
Format: E Pub Book Edition: 1st Extent: 416 ISBN: 9781350012530 
Imprint: Bloomsbury Academic Series: The Reception of British and Irish Authors in Europe 
Illustrations: 9 b/w illustrations List price: $201.99

This new edition is for every person who loves the poetry and dramas of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892). His early poetry and major works are analyzed, dissected, by the nineteenth-century critics of the day from France, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Russia and Bulgaria. Translations of his works are included which is fascinating to read. You can see the changes made to tone and content depending upon the European regional dialects. I really enjoyed discovering the various viewpoints of not only Lord Tennyson's works but many personal positive and negative opinions shared about the poet laureate during his lifetime.  

It is always difficult for me, personally, to read the negative critiques of the man vs. his works because I know how sensitive and empathetic he was. As with every artist, we do not like to always read the 'bashing' of our heartfelt writings. He took everything to heart and kept it inside. Anyway, this edition does very well in providing the reader with a well-rounded viewpoint. It is up to each person to take away from it what they will. If you love reading his major works, from the European standpoint it is here in full. If you enjoy learning more about the reviews of his works then they are here as well. 

This edition made for fascinating reading because it helped me view the poet laureate from a different perspective and I always learn new things about poets and writers of the nineteenth-century.  

Thank you to Bloomsbury Academic for your ebook review edition. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

A review of The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox

During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the Brighton Lanes. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey.

Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living - now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film. As Beauvois's muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect. 

But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality when Beauvois suspected a love affair between Leda and her leading man. A horrific accident left Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century - until Ed Peters finds her and hears the secrets of her past, resulting in a climax more haunting than any to be found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois.

Paperback, 360 pages
Expected publication: November 3rd 2016 by Orion
Title:  The Last Days of Leda Grey

Theda Bara

Since, The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox is soon to be published it makes my review a bit difficult. I cannot go into as much detail as I want to. It will be hard to hold myself back but understand in order for the reader to completely get lost in this gorgeous story, I must refrain from gushing. It will be a first for me!~   

 Theda Bara

 'Leda Grey' is told from the male perspective of journalist, Ed Peters who in 1976 walks into a shop to look around when he sees an old photograph of a silent film actress. He falls instantly in love with this coal black eyed, raven haired beauty. When the store owner tells him that Leda Grey is still alive and living nearby in a cliff-top house called, White Cliff he is off in a shot to find his enchantress.  

There is much more to the store owner and his relationship with recluse, Leda Grey. As for Ed Peters, well, his curiosity to find this beauty, now old, grey haired and withered by time, will change both their lives forever. 

 Theda Bara

What I just adored about this story was meeting old recluse Leda Grey.  What must have happened during this young, teenage girl's short film career to result in her locking herself away for years? Why would a young woman choose to live alone, isolated in her crumbling abode with rarely any human contact instead of venturing out into the real world? Even with the past of a brief acting career, some secrets should be left alone undisturbed only to be viewed on celluloid or on a movie screen in a crowded movie house stinking of stale oiled buttered popcorn with nothing but the echoes of the hum of the projector running upstairs in a locked room. 

 Theda Bara in The She Devil, 1918

Author, Essie Fox has done something truly impossible. She has taken the persona of a well-known movie actress, transported her back into 1976 aged and mentally effusive. Having three male counterparts, one an old ghostly lover, Charles Beauvois to tell aspects of her film career.  It is brilliant I tell you.  Also, Leda Grey herself unlocks her past secrets through clues hidden within her silent films made with Charles Beauvois. Journalist, Ed Peters is along for the ride as he pieces together this once beautiful woman's hidden past. Now, what is discovered and what occurs is beautifully written through journalistic interviews between Ed Peters and Leda Grey. 

The Last Days of Leda Grey is Essie Fox's best written work yet!  I cannot convey this enough how much I fell in love with her characters, the setting, the music of the nineteen seventies, her descriptions, her words, the story is ethereal in nature, Gothic in tone and dripping with gorgeous prose.   

Theda Bara film

To purchase your copy of The Last Days of Leda Grey in the United Kingdom,  Amazon UK

If you live in the U.S., and want to buy The Last Days of Leda Grey visit,  Book Depository


Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders: A Review!

On February 22, 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln was laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very nigh...