Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Love List #9: Bo Caldwell

Bo Caldwell’s novels, The Distant Land of My Father and City of Tranquil Light, transport readers to China during two different periods in history. Their perceptive portraits of history and place, fine writing, and emotionally resonant storylines have made them familiar fixtures on “best of” lists and the kind of books that spend only a brief amount of time on our shelves because they are constantly getting picked up by eager readers.

We are delighted that Bo is a local author and someone we can claim (just a bit!) as one of our own. And also delighted that she has sent us a list of the titles that she’s besotted with right now accompanied by some seriously tempting descriptions. Also! Do take note: YET ANOTHER RECOMMENDATION OF THE CAT'S TABLE!

This is Bo Caldwell.

Two novels, two art books, and a nice fat poetry anthology – who could ask for anything more? Not I.  Here are five books I fell in love with this year.

by: Scott O’Connor

The Kid (almost no one calls him by his real name) is eleven years old and hasn’t spoken since his mother’s death nearly a year before this amazing novel opens.  His dad is a trauma-site cleanup technician – he cleans up the mess after people die, and to say that this father and son are struggling is putting it mildly; they’re barely staying afloat.  I loved them and desperately wanted for them to be okay.  This is an emotional page-turner, and a story of redemption and healing.  It’s also a very smart book, without, as far as I’m concerned, one false step.

The Cat’s Table 
by: Michael Ondaatje

The story of another eleven-year-old boy on an entirely different sort of journey, The Cat’s Table chronicles the narrator’s ocean voyage as he travels from his home in Sri Lanka to be reunited with his mother in England.  Two of his former schoolmates are also on the ship, and they become our hero’s co-conspirators at first, and then his friends.  The story of this journey would be plenty, but the book is just as much about the journey from childhood to adulthood, and from innocence to knowledge.  We learn about what becomes of the travelers aboard the Oronsay in a narrative that is as natural and complicated as life itself.  And Ondaatje’s writing, as always, is stunning at every turn.

Vincent Van Gogh 
by: Isabel Kuhl

This book on Van Gogh includes three chapters on the artist, his work, and his life, but it was the pictures of his work that drew me in.  With more than forty full-page reproductions of his paintings, the book is a treasure.  The first leisurely thirty pages include fifteen of those reproductions, set opposite quotes from the artist’s letters.  (“I mean painting is a home. . .”)  These pages alone made the book worthwhile.  

Les trente-six vues de la Tour Eiffel 
by: Henri Riviere

In this recreation of a book published in 1902, you won’t find three dozen paintings of this landmark per se; instead, all of the paintings include the Eiffel Tower somewhere, but in a variety of different guises.  Some are painted from atop the Tower; in others the Tower is in the distance and you have to search for it, and in others it’s just being built, so you don’t recognize it right away.  Riviere’s style is a mixture of Art Nouveau and Japonisme, which gives the paintings a clean, simple look.  The book opens with the original prologue, in French, with an English translation and afterward at the end.

Good Poems, American Places 
selected and introduced by: Garrison Keillor

I’m a big fan of Keillor’s two previous anthologies (Good Poems and Good Poems for Hard Times) so when I heard about this latest volume, I didn’t think twice about buying it – and I haven’t since.  It’s a hefty collection – 263 poems, if I counted correctly – and Keillor is a master not only at gathering the poems, but at introducing and arranging them.  The sections guide you through this rich country of ours in a way that feels both surprising and logical.  I read Keillor’s previous anthologies like novels, cover to cover, and I did the same here, going from Manhattan’s Algonquin to L.A.’s Pershing Square and everywhere in between, and relishing every page.

1 comment:

kamagra said...

This collection does a marvelous job of conveying the heart of America.