Solstice Greetings December 21, 2014
When thinking what to blog about at this juncture of the year, the word “books” keeps coming to mind. Books, in many ways remain an anchor in my life. So, I am going to share my great pleasure in books by selecting several highlights from my reading this year. I’ll start with my most recent “fav”.
Seems as if this past year is the season for excellent historical novels and I so enjoyed and highly recommend The Paying Guests by acclaimed British author, Sarah Waters. In 1920s London, begrimed both physically and metaphorically by the ravages of WW1, Frances Wray and Lilian Barber form a friendship that leads to unanticipated and spellbinding consequences. Shot through with undertones of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s inimitable Crime and Punishment, this exquisitely written novel hits all the high notes available to a consummate artist at the height of her powers.
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami, a fictional memoir written by formerly wealthy Moroccan merchant-cum-Spanish slave, Estebanico, who in 1527 accompanied his grandee master–along with 600 other Spanish conquistadors and journeymen–on the fictional recreation of a historic expedition from Hispaniola to the Gulf Coast of Florida to explore and claim La Florida territory for the Spanish crown. Only four members survived. Estebanico’s account counters the whitewash “official” version. This novel has everything: history, adventure, relationships, survival, courage, cruelty and important questions of morality, religiosity, and cultural anthropology. It is both anachronistic and perfectly attuned to contemporary issues.
The classic book on the Florida Everglades, The Everglades: River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, first published almost seventy years ago, remains a gripping and fascinating account of the pre-history and history of this amazing eco-system. It is a must read for anyone who loves or who is interested in this landscape. I love the Everglades and this biota is one of the main motivations for my move to southwest Florida. I’ll be forever grateful for Stoneman’s book, it is already my constant companion.
I’m honored to highlight The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, published late fall 2013, an unforgettable read, a towering novel, that will remain the gold standard for dissecting the post-2001 apocalyptic world in which we find ourselves. In February 2014 it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Here are several paragraphs from the concluding pages. I hope they leave you wanting more.
“A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.
“It’s not about outward appearances but inward significance, a grandeur in the world, but not of the world, a grandeur that the world doesn’t understand. That first glimpse of pure otherness, in whose presence you bloom out and out and out.
“And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: is the space where all art exists, and all magic.
“And—I would argue as well—all love…the play between things, both love and not-love, there and not there.”
Happy Solstice! As we (in the northern hemisphere) emerge from the dark light of December I send my love and wholehearted good wishes to my followers and readers for good health and happiness in the upcoming year, wherever you are.