Many of the poems in this book are iterations of the poet's own life. Jeannine Hall Gailey spent her childhood in Tennessee, in the shadow of her fathMany of the poems in this book are iterations of the poet's own life. Jeannine Hall Gailey spent her childhood in Tennessee, in the shadow of her father's workplace, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, incubator and nursery to nuclear experiments that included the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The neighborhood where she grew up has since been razed and paved over, but the poet recalls the way the old perils affected the child and the woman.
Like other children, she was taught not to eat poisonous plants - lily of the valley, hemlock -
But she didn't learn that the swallow's nest, the frog, the mud-dauber wasp nest, the milk from cows, the white-tailed deer, the catfish were full of hot particles. Her father brought out the Geiger counter to measure her snowmen and teach her the snow, too, wasn't safe enough to taste.
As a child,
She knows the click of the Geiger counter better than her own heart, which moans and swings unlike any machine.
Her father's Geiger counter click-clicked its swaying tongue at me.
Her mother worries that she is becoming morbid:
... the girl hides underground, pretending to be a troll or a witch, She puts leaves in her hair and collects fossils, lining them up to spell words, the swirling trilobite, the imprints of the mysterious dead.
As an adult, she tells of the aftermath of nuclear disasters in Chernobyl and Fukushima, where "Sunflowers planted in hope, in the name of the dead / fail to purify the earth... Still, they are tended." Ordinary landscapes become shifted and exotic with "blue glass butterflies born eyeless," and where "metal faces of new radiation detection signs / appear next to the crumpled worn idols of stone."
These stone idols may turn our thoughts to Shelley's "Ozymandias." "Tickling the Dragon" evokes W. H. Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts." "About suffering they were never wrong," says Auden, showing us Breughel's painting of Icarus falling into the sea: a cosmic catastrophe that is virtually ignored by the townspeople.
Gailey replaces the Auden's "Old Masters" with "old comics," showing us a comic, line-drawing of a very real and catastrophic accident involving a scientist whose hubris caused him to use a screwdriver in an experiment with deadly beryllium and plutonium. His gruesome death by radiation, like the bravado of Icarus, is now an everyday accommodation to reality: man can not, unaided, touch the sky, or the atom: "After this, they began to use robots; / they wanted to find a way to keep a man's hands / from touching the demon core of this dragon." Either way, however, the small and invisible can be humanity's undoing.
These poems are funny and matter-of -fact, filled with imagery and plain, down-to-earth and science-fictional. They are both haunting and interesting. I am very glad to have been given the opportunity to discover them.
Thank you to Serena Agusto-Cox of Poetic Book Tours and Savvy Verse and Wit for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for The Robot Scientist's Daughter. ...more
In the realm of the Doll God by Luanne Castle, intention is not limited to the usual actors. Nesting dolls may choose to share Snow White's casket. ThIn the realm of the Doll God by Luanne Castle, intention is not limited to the usual actors. Nesting dolls may choose to share Snow White's casket. The old, life-sized toddler doll, denied a little girl's ability to say "No," may force the beholder to read her history in chill, stony eyes ("See how it was for me, my history"). In "A Bone Elegy," a poem that refers to surgery on a "ravenous tumor" on the foot of the poet, a mother's voice is "a clothesline/heavy with soggy laundry" as the poet remembers a visit to the shore, where "the wind stirring up/ the waves/ goosebumped my arms." Dolls and their homes, and the objects in those homes, challenge the reader to examine the transcendent issues of love, loss, beauty, presence, absence ("because absence has its variations").
"God's toolbox begets stained glass," she says, hinting at both beauty and danger. You will "see the sky's floor crack open in one poem; in another, the sky is "so blue it hisses." Even the peace of a mother knitting in golden lamplight while listening to Nancy Wilson is transient, as a girl, "whose blood is "buzzing through/ its gridded network," well knows: "Anything could unbalance it./ An extra star in tomorrow's sky, rain/ or no rain/ could re-set it all."
I particularly loved the poem, "Prospective Ghost's Response to the First Duino Elegy," in which Castle tells the Master, "I am still looking for angels," and tells of possible encounters with ghosts who appear to her as sensations.
Ghost animals skirt my ankles. I could be in love with them or their shadows. Now, I sit on the ledge watching terror as it creeps and insinuates into everything that is life or the world...
Rilke himself might have told her that "...the wind/ full of outer space/ gnaws at our lifted faces.." or that "...many stars lined up/ hoping you'd notice." He might have told her to show the angel "how even the wail of sorrow/ can settle purely/ into its own form..." -
- but Castle knows that, as she has created art from artifacts of childhood, and from the ancient teaching-tales of humanity. As proof, one more quote, from Snow Remembers an Old Tale:
From that other screen once upon that time a girl crawled out at night to dance in aisles of cornfields from Mayday to Halloween.
In a guest post on Peeking Between the Pages, Luanne Castle recently wrote "Because I grew up with the imaginary world of dolls, I can't see a doll that doesn't inspire me for a poem Often my imagination will transform the doll into a magical portal through which to see more of the human heart."
Need I say that I loved this book? It has everything poetry can offer, from stunning imagery and metaphors to a storyline that encompasses the search for meaning and identity.
Thank you to Serena Agusto-Cox of Poetic Book Tours and Savvy Verse and Wit for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Doll God....more
A little chaotic, and perhaps too many characters all talking at once - but to introduce a new series that includes weaving, knitting, cats, and a depA little chaotic, and perhaps too many characters all talking at once - but to introduce a new series that includes weaving, knitting, cats, and a depressed ghost, you probably can't help but throw it all in and sort it out later. I'll definitely read more of this series....more
This is a perfect book. The characters - four siblings and their parents - are real people: flawed, intelligent, funny, loving, and (occasionally) uttThis is a perfect book. The characters - four siblings and their parents - are real people: flawed, intelligent, funny, loving, and (occasionally) utterly crazy. The narrative shifts amongst their points-of-view, sparing nothing and no one. From the father, whose caring and attention to children - both his patients and his own - to the mother, whose artistic dreams come back to life and skewer the very meaning of love - and through the lives of each child, the story accumulates like a tapestry in progress. Amazing.
Thank you, NetGalley, for allowing me to review this book....more
High-concept books require readers to buy into the premise - in this case, that a woman, Rose, has been dreaming about a fantastic island and playmateHigh-concept books require readers to buy into the premise - in this case, that a woman, Rose, has been dreaming about a fantastic island and playmate, Hugo, since she was recovering from an accident at age six. Every.Single.Night. The island is a whimsical affair, with sparkling pink sands, weird foes to be vanquished, and landmarks such as Castle City and the Green Lagoon. Hugo leads their adventures aboard the Plank Orb, and flying above Spider Chasm.
Rose marries Josh, a surgeon, and has three little children. Although she continues to have the dreams, she ages, as we all do, and is vaguely dissatisfied with what she calls her "sweatpants years." On the island, in her dreams, she is still beautiful and fit, as is Hugo, even though both have aged in the dreams. "Of what consequences are the dreams of housewives?" she wonders, retreating into sleep and feeling alienated from the other mothers.
Her husband and children have participated vicariously in the dream-world via the stories they have adopted as a shared mythology. They look forward to their bedtime play with the Tickle Monster, and they build a LEGO replica of the island.
Of course, the impossible becomes possible one day when she drives a carload of hungry, grumpy children to a less-travelled fast food restaurant, Orange Tastee. The cashier, against all real-world logic, is Hugo: older and less beautiful, like Rose, but unmistakable.
She is shaken - who wouldn't be? - and she begins to stalk him when her children are in school. When she decides to show herself, he recognizes her but panics. Soon, the dreams they share begin to change...
The concept is intricate, and beautifully limned. The lines between good guys and threatening entities, waking and dreaming, shared history and unique childhood traumas, are honored, even when circumstances begin to deteriorate. Many of the recurrent themes - imperiled children, the perceived shallowness of caregivers - resonate deeply. Who hasn't wished for an imaginary world and an agreeable companion?
My rating is really 3.5 stars, shading toward a generous 4. One star is subtracted because the writing sometimes slips into cumbersome, tell-don't-show pronouncements ("it played into their innate desires for self-reliance") that are annoying and spell-breaking, especially after a well-written passage of show-don't-tell. Another half-star would be subtracted because Rose's husband is just too, too patient. But it's a good and diverting read, and a fine first novel.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review....more
The proprietor of a Scottish loch-side inn, the men and women who work there, the townspeople who keep the faith during the dark times of WWII: these The proprietor of a Scottish loch-side inn, the men and women who work there, the townspeople who keep the faith during the dark times of WWII: these are well-drawn, real characters whose survival matters deeply to the reader. Their folklore (including the Loch Ness Monster), their remedies for everything from seasickness to the devastation of domestic violence, their soups and teas - these illuminate personalities of a terrified, but far from fractured community.
Unfortunately, these are secondary characters, used as backdrop for three Americans whose heedlessness, selfishness, casual cruelty, snobbishness, and backbiting are only a hair's breath from cartoonish. A young, married couple is disinherited by insular, callous parents. They and an equally callow friend go to the Loch to film (by any means necessary) the Monster, which the beastly father had filmed - falsely - years before. The two men mistreat everyone they come across - except, possibly, each other - and the woman, left behind at the inn for days at a time, grows a soul.
There are love stories mixed in here, some of which engage the reader. There is so much backstory in the first third of the book that the reader may despair of finding the thread of a worthy plot. There are glimpses of what the real war has done to real people, both military and civilian, and there is hope - because the reader knows the outcome of the war.
Disappointing, but worth two stars for the heart and soul of the small town that takes in three hapless Americans.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more
Every knitter will want this book. Clear photographs for dozens of increases and decreases, showing which are best paired, how they look stacked or seEvery knitter will want this book. Clear photographs for dozens of increases and decreases, showing which are best paired, how they look stacked or separated, and such good instructions that I finally, finally understand how to do p2togtbl! Excellent, excellent.
Thank you, Net Galley! I can not wait to purchase this book when it's published in May!...more
The ingredients for a top-notch fantasy are here: a family of magicians, an occult order that uses the labyrinth as a means of enlightenment, late-VicThe ingredients for a top-notch fantasy are here: a family of magicians, an occult order that uses the labyrinth as a means of enlightenment, late-Victorian seances, and a modern woman who begins to learn the secrets of her unusual heritage.
Goldstein is at her best when she describes intricate labyrinths and enchanted, fantastic houses. Unfortunately, the characters do not come to life, and their story plods.
Jean Perdu's great love, Manon, left him two decades ago. Since then, he has maintained a floating bookshop-barge, a Literary Apothecary, on the banksJean Perdu's great love, Manon, left him two decades ago. Since then, he has maintained a floating bookshop-barge, a Literary Apothecary, on the banks of the Seine. His own heart and life have been hardened; the room in his apartment where he knew great love has been barricaded and left idle. By day, he dispenses books, suiting the title to the customer with uncanny accuracy, One customer might receive The Elegance of the Hedgehog, while another might be given a poem by Hesse or Tom's Midnight Garden. Only his cats, Lindgren and Kafka, are permitted to touch him; he can not prescribe a book for himself.
Catherine, his new neighbor, has escaped an abusive relationship. When M. Perdu's landlady urges him to donate something to help furnish her new apartment, he breaks into the long-deserted room to fetch a table. He is stunned when Catherine gives him a letter she found in a drawer - a letter from Manon. Unopened.
Tearing open the letter tears him apart when he learns why Manon chose to leave - not for lack of love at all. Suddenly, disappointment and anger become something very different. The young woman he first met on a train from Provence, for whom he prescribed books for homesickness, had another reason to leave him - and he failed her.
Also in the apartment complex is a young writer, Max Jordan, who wears earplugs and wooly mufti to escape the fans who clamor for more, more. He, too, has been abandoned - by his muse.
For much of the book, M. Perdu and Max navigate the the barge through the waterways of France, from Paris to Provence, as Perdu tries to retrace Manon's steps and learn her fate. They are not quite Huck and Jim, but some of their adventures are bittersweet, each meeting people and learning truths about themselves as they float through the countryside.
The book is a love song to love itself, Paris, the tango, food, books, and freedom. Some of the characters and episodes would be at home in "Amelie." Other situations are more like a gastronomic panorama. We learn that Paris is scented "like lime blossoms and expectation," that the air, one day, "was as warm as a brimming teacup." Catherine wanted to be a pirate and a librarian; she serves as M. Perdu's lodestar, and represents the possibility of mature, honest love. We learn of Manon from a diary in which she describes Perdu as a white raven.
If you are hungry when you finish the book, recipes are included for some of the dishes - (a Provencal soup called Pistou, lavender ice cream). Also included: "Jean Perdu's emergency literary pharmacy," from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (to be read "in easily digestible doses... with warm feet and/or with a cat on your lap"), Romain Gary's Promise at Dawn ("...protection against nostalgia for one's childhood"), Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities ("a book for me who've forgotten what they wanted from life"), and Enchanted April by elizabeth von Arnim, "for indecision and for trusting one's friends."
If I had a literary apothecary, I would prescribe this book to all of my friends.
Thank you, Net Galley, for allowing me to read and review this wonderful book.
This rich novel is cast as the memoir of 90-year-old Caroline Maclaren, being written in the late 1970s at the request of her late husband's charitablThis rich novel is cast as the memoir of 90-year-old Caroline Maclaren, being written in the late 1970s at the request of her late husband's charitable foundation. Robert Maclaren was a a composer who was dubbed "America's Orpheus" for his use of American themes in his classical music. The marriage was rich in the world's admiration for his genius, but bereft of emotional depth between husband and wife. As his demands for the silent, solitary conditions he needed for composing became more extreme, Caroline's life became almost unbearably isolated and barren. Even her desire to accompany a singer on piano was thwarted by the increasingly-irascible Robert.
Early in the relationship, Caroline sensed that Robert had secrets that she could not define. There were hints of incest in his mother's behavior, and letters from a young man whose anguish and passion disturbed her. As time passed, his health and abilities deteriorated in a manner that others understood, even as she remained ignorant. She only learned the name of the illness after Anna, the nurse hired to help with his care, told her: syphilis.
Caroline spares nothing in her description of Robert's horrific decline, but says she only realized what it meant in the light of those old, passionate letters when Anna explained how the disease is transmitted. She found that she did not feel grief, as other widows do: " I felt none of that, for wife I was only in a sense, and woman I had not yet learned to be."
After Robert died, people from nearby Saratoga Springs helped to create the Maclaren Foundation, building six cabins on the wooded property to house a summer community for young composers. Anna remained and continued to plant flowers and vegetables according to science and ancient gardening lore.
It was Anna's comment about planting turnips and barley while naked that opened Caroline's lifelong repression of her need for love, physical and spiritual. She wooed Anna slowly, hardly understanding how two women can love.
Then, she writes, "I think of the first, soft spring rain; she was moisture to my dried roots... the way a certain configuration of notes played on the flute alone... can bring tears to one's eyes." They held hands and untangled the delicate roots of a wisteria vine. They were happy.
And yet, they never talked about their love: "a fitting vocabulary for such discussions did not exist." She knows now, as she writes, that women can walk together in daylight, but in her own time, "the world would not have sanctioned it, nor, for that matter, believed it of me." In fact, she writes, she is not entirely certain that such freedom is "...entirely salutary, whether the old must of chests, of closets, bell jars, and horsehair sofas is not a better climate for the storage of the private life."
Ah, but Doris Grumbach has no such hesitation. This delicate yet unflinching novel begins with the privileges of a talented man, and ends with the last thoughts of a woman who transcended the confines of her time. Books like this, and Ms. Grumbach's The Ladies , remind the modern readers that walks in the sunlight are the product of struggles and courage. Caroline Maclaren writes that the Foundation may delete parts of her story, but she will continue to write her extraordinary truth.
Thanks to NetGalley for the book. This is an honest review.