Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cold Reading

One thing about having a cold, it means I can sit (or lie) and read to my heart's content. So on Monday afternoon, after the worst of the cleanup was over, I curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea and lemon and honey and leapt into Notes from No Man's Land. a collection of American essays by Eula Biss.

Since I still have a cold (she whined), I'll quote a bit from the back cover, rather than force my brain into originality:

"Eula Biss is the author of The Balloonists. She teaches nonfiction writing at Northwestern University . . . Her essays have appeared in the Believer and Harper's."

"Like Blake, that other mystic poet, Biss sees the world in a grain of sand. Without missing a beat, she looks at a telephone pole as a symbol of our universal connection, the intrusion of technology, an instrument of lynch mobs, a reminder of her grandfather's death, and a symbol of life sprouting new leaves even after it is strung with wires."

This is some beautiful, mind-stretching writing. I've followed Eula's career with some interest as I first met her years ago when she was still a baby. Eula is the niece of one of my very dear friends who handed me a copy of this book at the Easter party. I had devoured Eula's first book, in awe of her way with a word and her truly original turns of thought, so I was eager to see what awaited me in No Man's Land.

No disappointment here. I highly recommend this collection of quirky, iconoclastic, idiosyncratic thoughts from the heartland.

But that was Monday. On Tuesday I re-entered the seamy underside of modern day London which Elizabeth George, like some Dickens of today, lays out in heartbreaking detail. What Came Before He Shot Her traces the events that led to the murder of one of George's most beloved characters. It's testimony to George's power as a writer that I found myself deeply engaged with most of the characters and eager to follow their stories even though the setting is a far cry from the idyllic English countryside.

And when I finished this one (I read really, really fast -- knowing that if I like a book, I'll re-read it eventually), the next in the series awaited me. While WCBHSH, is almost a standalone (no Thomas Lynley or Barbara Havers), Careless in Red returns the faithful reader to the familiar characters. Here the setting is Cornwall -- not Daphne DuMaurier's romantic Cornwall of smugglers and Cavaliers but the modern tourist-infested Cornwall where surfing looms large as a way of life. And here again, George drew me in as I followed the heartsore Lynley through the investigation of a murder and wondered . . . but I don't want to spoil anything for those of you who might be tempted to read this latest one. I will say, I'm eager for the next but will wait patiently because I know how long it takes.

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Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Oh, Vicki, I'm so sorry about the cold! Feel better soonest! But. You're doing some great reading. I love Elizabeth George's writing and I especially loved "Careless in Red."

I am not familiar with Eula Biss. Now, though, I need to see what I can find by her 'cause you have certainly sparked some interest - thank you!

Stella Jones said...

My sympathies with your cold Vicki, I have one too! I'm carrying the tissue box around with me wherever I go today! Must be something in the air in Asheville cos I was passing through there last week!
Blessings, Star

Reader Wil said...

How are you Vicky? Are you feeling better? I hope so! Thank you for your kind comment! I appreciate it!

Vicki Lane said...

Kaye -- Eula's books are on Amazon. They're from a small press and may not be readily available elsewhere. But then again, they may -- what do I know?

Re cold -- I'm beginning to sit up and take notice, as they say. Not completely over it but definitely on the comeback trail.

Star -- Hope you recover soonest! There's a great-sounding recipe for Cold Killer Tomato Soup in the Comments for yesterday's post -- might be worth a try . . .

Vicki Lane said...

Reader Wil,

Getting better by the minute! It's nice to have all this virtual cosseting!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

A big "thank you" to Karen B. for the Cold-Killer Soup. Sounds delish!

Vicki?? Community Quilts book at Amazon?? What have I missed??

Tess Kincaid said...

Hope you're feeling better soon, Vicki! Enjoy the reading! My uncle loves the Elizabeth George books. I think he's read all of them!

Vicki Lane said...

Ah -- I feel a blog post coming on.

But briefly: Before I started writing mysteries, a friend and I co-authored a couple of books for Lark Press on quilting. Community Quilts by Karol Kavaya and Vicki Skemp (my married name) is one. It's out of print but available on Amazon (Hardcover and paper) -- and it's a beauty, if I do say so myself. Lots of the photos were taken at out farm.

I'll do a post on it in the next few days.

Vicki Lane said...

Willow -- it's been wonderful reading guilt-free. Today, however, I'm catching up with laundry and email. And vacuuming -- my least favorite indoor sport.

Anonymous said...

Love the Thomas Lynley series on PBS. It brings the characters to life nicely. Love reading the books first though! Feel better.The pollen doesn't help. It is better here in Asheville than in Rock Hill.Not so much "green dust."

Cynthia said...

Sorry, that last was Cynthia!

Carol Murdock said...

Vicki....glad to hear your feeling better. Maybe I need to get sick and find a little more reading time.I am the culprit who let the cat out of the bag to Eleanor about the Quilt book! I love mine,
it's beautiful so I'm not sorry!
She is gonna love it! I'm going to try and root you a piece of the JC
Rose, I'll give it to you in Flat Rock!

Vicki Lane said...

Cynthia -- I agree about the PBS series (we get them on Netflix and during this writing hiatus I've had time to watch a few.) And I'm feeling much better, praise be!

Carol -- no worries -- the quilt book was never a secret. I posted about it back on Nov. 1 of last year and I'm sure I've mentioned it other places. As I told Kaye, I'm right proud of it!