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The Neruda Case
by Roberto Ampuero
Cayetano Brule is a Cuban exile living in Chile and trying to make it as a private detective. Pablo Neruda takes him on to track down a former lover. The setting is September 1973 during the time of the Pinochet coup and near the end of Neruda's life. We knew this book would be something special when, at the get-go, Neruda hands him a stack of Georges Simenon novels to use to sharpen his investigative technique. Roberto Ampuero is an internationally bestselling, award-winning author. He has published twelve novels in Spanish, and his works have been translated around the world. The Neruda Case is his first novel published in English. Born in Chile, Ampuero is a professor of creative writing at the University of Iowa and currently serves as Chile's ambassador to Mexico. He lives in Mexico City and Iowa City.
Mies van Hout
We find it appropriate to be reviewing a children's book on emotions in this newsletter featuring Sylvia Plath and a book on our country's "depression." This book is full of such beautiful simplicity it's virtually impossible not to fall in love with it. Each double-page spread is constructed with an image of a fish on one side, in what looks like a chalk drawing on a blackboard. Opposite is a single hand-lettered word, also drawn in chalk or crayon, on a jewel-toned, textured sheet. "Brave" is a very small pale fish with a tentative smile, isolated in the lower corner of the black page, opposite a cherry-red page with the word brave in lower-case white letters. "Sad" is small, smeared letters on a blue page like streaks of rain or tears. The large blue fish opposite has little definition; eyes and mouth are almost invisible in its misery.
While there isn't a "story" in this book per se, it is intended for children as old as 8 years. Identifying and recognizing emotions is something for kids of all ages.
One of the great taboos in baseball - at any level, from the sandlot to the major leagues - is the beanball. The game accepts the occasional brush-back pitch to keep a batter from jamming the plate, or to chastise him for showboating. A plink on the ribs or rear end is acceptable. But the accepted rule is firm: Do not throw at the head.
While this book may not be an amazing, or life altering read, it is an enjoyable and well written book. At just over 200 pages, it's quick and easy. Grisham may be known for his legal thrillers, but he knows the game of baseball as well as he knows the courtroom. If you are a baseball fan, you will certainly enjoy this easy summer read.
|Harbour Cornucopia, Wisconsin. |
By Sylvia Plath
A few months ago Julie Buckles wrote a piece in the former Ashland Current about a fascinating scrap of literary history here in our remote Northwoods neighborhood. In 1959, Sylvia Plath and her husband, Ted Hughes, made an eight-week road trip - a la Jack Kerouac - around America in her mother's '53 Chevy. Each of them wrote a handful of poems, and Plath wrote a couple of short stories, drawn from their experiences. She also made one sketch - the harbor in the village of Cornucopia just down the road from us. While Plath kept no journal from the trip, she did send postcards and letters as did Hughes. Clearly, the Cornucopia visit was a highlight of the journey. Hughes wrote to his parents that the day in Cornucopia was one of the best of their trip. Plath noted that from their campsite she could "see Lake Superior through birch and apple tree branches; the water is blue and glittery and stretches to the horizon like a boundless sea." Her story - A Prospect of Cornucopia - which she described as "an essay on the impossibility of perfect happiness" was never published and is presumed lost. The sketch of the harbor was sold last year by the Mayor Gallery of London. The Cornucopia harbor looks much the same today and the village is definitely worth a visit.
|What we're reading |
The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar, first published in the UK in 1963, was Sylvia Plath's only novel. It chronicles the dark descent of Esther Greenwood whose beauty, brilliance and talent are progressively eroded into a deep depression. The novel is semi-autobiographical drawing on the parallel experience of Plath's own life prior to her suicide which occurred just a month after its first publication. As she wrote to her mother (who held up US publication for some 8 years until 1971) - "What I've done is to throw together events from my own life, fictionalising to add colour- it's a pot boiler really, but I think it will show how isolated a person feels when he is suffering a breakdown.... I've tried to picture my world and the people in it as seen through the distorting lens of a bell jar". Plath's sketch of the Cornucopia harbor (noted above) is included in some editions of The Bell Jar.
End This Depression Now
Oddly enough when this book arrived at our store it was mis-categorized and placed in our mental health section. Actually, that wasn't too far off! There seems, according to Krugman, to be a certain amount of craziness in our response to the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. He says, "The moral of the book is: this doesn't have to be happening. This is essentially a technical process; it's a small thing. It's like having a dead battery in a car, and while there may be a lot wrong with the car, you can get the car going remarkably easily, if you're willing to accept that's what the problem really is." Apparently, our political leadership does not. The book is a ringing endorsement of Keynesian economic principles and their application to the current malaise. Many will not agree, but his point is hard to argue with and there seems to be no compelling counter-prescription from his critics.
American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama
Rachel L. Swarns
In the US, most of us are either immigrants or have descended from ancestors who came here, voluntarily or involuntarily, from somewhere else. In 1976, Alex Haley sparked a cultural sensation in the US with the publication of his novel, Roots: the Saga of an American Family, which told the story of Kunta Kinte, an 18th-century African, captured as an adolescent and sold into slavery in the US, and follows his life and the lives of his descendants in the US. People of all ages and ethnic backgrounds were inspired to explore their own ancestry and unearth the stories that brought them here. In her newly released non-fiction book, American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama, Swarns relates the complex and fascinating ancestry of our First Lady. Like Roots, Swarns' book is an important window into America's multicultural roots and interwoven racial history, the fabric that makes up America's tapestry.
|Upcoming events |
We are thrilled to be welcoming quite the line-up of authors later this year at Apostle Islands Booksellers. Michael Perry, Peter Geye and William Kent Krueger are all established authors and have other titles available for purchase as well. The book featured below will all be released for sale over the next couple of months. We hope to see many of you at these events.
Russ Feingold, author of While America Sleeps
When: Thursday, August 23 at 1pm
Where: Big Water Cafe & Coffee Roasters, 117 Rittenhouse Ave.
Michael Perry, Author of Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace (on sale August 21st)
When: Sunday, September 9 at 2pm
Where: Big Water Cafe & Coffee Roasters
Peter Geye, author of The Lighthouse Road (on sale October 2nd)
When: Saturday, October 27 at 2pm
Where: Big Water Cafe & Coffee Roasters, with signing to follow at Apostle Islands Booksellers
William Kent Krueger, author of Trickster's Point (on sale August 21st)
When: Saturday, November 3 at 2pm
Where: Big Water Cafe & Coffee Roasters, with signing to follow at Apostle Islands Booksellers
A closing thought...
In the back room at the store, just inside the back door, is a set of shelves containing the Short Story/Anthology/Plays and Poetry Sections. If you stand in front of these books you will see many very familiar names but also an eclectic collection of relatively unknown works by some wonderful writers. I am always drawn to the books of poetry and the power of the words from many of the poets tug at my heart and I roll them around in my head and search for the reasons why certain poems resonate so strongly inside my soul.
Nestled next to each other on one of the shelves are many books by Pablo Neruda and Mary Oliver. Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet who always wrote his poems in green ink which was his personal color signifying hope. This was his pen name which he borrowed from a Czech poet named Jan Neruda. His real name was Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. His poems of love have an erotic and romantic power that will quicken your pulse. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Mary Oliver is an American poet and Pulitzer Prize winner who also writes poems that are about love, but most of her poems are about her love of nature and our place in this world we call home. One of my favorite poems of hers is "Wild Geese" and here is the last stanza to give you a flavor of what her poetry is about.
"Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-over and over announcing your place in the family of things."
So read some Neruda and Oliver side by side and find the power of love in beautifully spun words.