The Blazing World


blazing worldHarriet Burden, known as Harry to her friends, has lived in the shadow of her wealthy art-dealer husband for many years, her own art ignored and pushed aside.  When her husband dies, Harry decides to create her own masterpiece, Maskings.  She shows three different pieces of her artwork using three different men who will pose as the artists.  The plan is to reveal her deception, and to reveal the art world’s preference of male artists, once all three shows have taken place.  But when the final artist, Rune, refuses to acknowledge that she was the artist behind “his” work, the art world doubts the veracity of her masterpiece and her claims.

The Blazing World is told from various points of view collected after Harry’s death.  The story is told through Harry’s journal entries, industry articles, and interviews with her lover, children, and others.  This doesn’t detract from the continuity of the story, but allows it to flow nicely while providing alternating points of view.

Harry’s frustrations and convictions are all-encompassing for her, overwhelming her both personally and professionally, and are clearly documented throughout the story.  Unfortunately, while they were documented, often to the point of tedium, I never felt them.  The book is intelligent to a fault.  While I am not an uneducated person, I am also not an expert in philosophers or artists, nor do I want to have to be in order to enjoy a story.  Harry’s in-depth knowledge of these fields, and the constant references to them, and the overwhelming footnotes, detracted from the story.  A book full of knowledge, but without much heart.

Author: Siri Hustvedt
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 368
Publication: Simon & Schuster, March 2014

Graphic Novels

will & whitWill (Wilhelmina) is dealing with a lot.  Her parents died in a car accident last year and she’s developed a fear of the dark that she combats with a creative hobby – creating lamps out of nearly anything.  Living with her aunt, and helping her run an antique store, Will is looking forward to a summer of hanging out with her friends.  But when Hurricane Whit comes to town and causes a massive blackout, Will has to face her fears, and herself, without the aid of her lamps.

This is a far more “girly” graphic novel than any I have read previously, and would be a great way to introduce girls to the genre, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work for boys too.  Will’s struggles with her friends, her fears, and the loss of her parents are ones that can be universally understood and appreciated.  The illustrations are bold and flow seamlessly with the use of dark and light and shadows adding depth to the story.  Will’s story is one of courage and is full of heart, showing that there is always light to be found, even when it is darkest.

Title: Will & Whit
Author: Laura Lee Gulledge
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Graphic Novel
Pages: 192
Publication: Amulet Paperbacks, May 2013

marchJohn Lewis is a Congressman and a key figure in the civil rights movement.  This graphic novel is the first in a planned trilogy telling the story of Congressman Lewis’s life.  The book begins with Lewis’s participation in the Edmund Pettus Bridge Crossing (the Bloody Sunday of the civil rights movement), but that story does not get completed in this installment.  Instead, it moves forward in time, using President Obama’s inauguration in 2009 as the framework for the story, Lewis looks back on his life, what it was like to live under segregation, and the journey that has led to this moment in history, sharing it with several young boys who are meeting the Congressman.  From his time as a child on the farm, to his meeting Martin Luther King, Jr.,  through to his use of nonviolent protest at department store lunch counters in Nashville, this graphic novel tells a moving story of the first part of this man’s personal history while never losing sight of the larger historical context.

Title: March: Book One
Author: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
Genre: Non-Fiction, Graphic Novel
Pages: 128
Publication: Top Shelf Productions, August 2013

The Word Exchange

word exchangeThe concept is fairly simple, and fairly terrifying.  The not-so-distant future has arrived and people are so dependent on their electronic devices – their “Memes” – that they don’t know how to survive without them.  Even worse, they are beginning to lose their language skills.  Enter the evil corporation that has purchased most dictionaries and is looking to profit from the situation by creating the Word Exchange – a place where people can get the meaning of a word for just a couple of cents.  It makes perfect sense because print books, and most dictionaries, no longer are in use.  And hey – if they also want to release a virus that causes a “word flu” as well as an addictive game that furthers the problem – why not? Money is money…  Enter Anana, who works with her father producing the last print dictionary.  When her father disappears, Anana will have to put aside her Meme and work with Bart, another co-worker to figure out what’s happening and how to stop it.

I loved the concept of this book.  The ideas presented are frightening for someone who loves the printed word, and the reliance on electronic devices seemed all too real.  Unfortunately, it sometimes seemed like an intelligent book that was trying too hard to be smart.  The idea is smart, the plot was smart, the characters were intelligent, but it lacked something when it was all put together.  In the author’s seeming quest to write a “smart” book, it was often awkward in the telling, maybe about a hundred pages too long, and with plot twists that sometimes left gaping holes.  There was much that I liked about the book, being a lover of the written word and a bibliophile, but what could have been really great was just OK.

Title: The Word Exchange
Author: Alena Graedon
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 384
Publication: Doubleday, April 2014

Looking Forward to May 2014

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The Best of April 2014

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monthly wrapup