I finished Bewilderment at the end of October. There is much to like here, the retelling of Flowers for Algernon, the invented planets shared by the father and son at bedtime, the barely concealed references to real public personalities, all worked into a compelling and moving narrative. What I enjoyed most about this book though was the character of the mother, powerfully present in her absence. Her personality sometimes felt like one of the imaginary planets described by the narrator, pieced together from memories and the perceptions of others, particularly her son, the way one might ascertain the composition of a distant celestial object through the scattering of light.
I started reading Powers back in the early 1990s with The Gold Bug Variations on a transatlantic flight to England. Since then, I’ve read him periodically and long the way I bought most of his novels faithfully on publication. Reading Bewilderment made me want to go back and fill the gaps.
I’ve been away from Amnesiac’s Library for quite some time now. It was a very busy summer and fall, but now that the weather is cooling down it is the perfect time to jump back in and tell you about the books I’ve been enjoying.
But first, I want to show you the cover of my new novel Tailor of Echoes. The book will be published by PS Publications in December 2021. In addition to the cover art, I also created 10 illustrations for the interior. The book is now available for preorder on the PS Publication’s site.
Tailor of Echoes is available in a hardcover edition and a signed and numbered edition of 100!
The ancient City of Steps is transforming. Alleys and staircases appear where none previously existed. A tree is discovered at the bottom of a canal. In his search for the cause, a young, visionary architect, Adrian Peak, falls afoul of a secret society known as the Curators. The Curators task Adrian with finding a lost document called the Oneiric Chart in their vast sealed library. The chart is the key that opens a door to a shadow city in another, eerily familiar world. Lannikin Flower, the Curator’s shadowy servant, has deeply personal interest in Adrian’s failure.
The last drops of the thundershower had hardly ceased falling when the Pedestrian stuffed his map into his pocket, settled his pack more comfortably on his tired shoulders, and stepped out from the shelter of a large chestnut tree into the middle of the road.
Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis
On a certain day in June, 19—, a young man was making his way on foot northward from the great City to a town or place called Edgewood, that he had been told of but never visited. His name was Smoky Barnable, and he was going to Edgewood to get married; the fact that he walked and didn’t ride was one of the conditions placed on his coming there at all.
Little, Big, John Crowley
I began this post to comment on my love of the Bard Books/ Avon imprint. These books, once ubiquitous, are now are seen most frequently in used book shops. Charles Williams made me think of C. S. Lewis, of course, and the opening paragraph of Out of the Silent Planet made me think of the opening of Little, Big, and this is how works of literature speak together through us. It’s also why I will never thin out my library. There is no greater joy than following a trail of breadcrumbs through your collection of books.
For fun, here is a piece of art I did back in 2003, inspired by John Crowley’s Little, Big.
I have a terrible vice—book hoarding. I buy books, and then due to over burdened bookshelves in my living space, store them in the dreaded plastic bin (okay dozen plastic bins) in my basement.
Occasionally, I’ll go down there, brave the spiders, sow bugs and spent Christmas decorations to search for something that occurred to me. Usually, I have no luck finding what I’m looking for and come up with several things I wasn’t. Such is the case with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel.
What is extraordinary is that I haven’t read it yet. It is, as they say, up my alley. The art is amazing, the period is dear to my heart and it looks a hell of a lot less intimidating the Moore’s Jerusalem, which also mocks me from the murky depths of a Home Depot storage bin.
I finished re-reading Dune recently. When I first read it the first time, I was a teenager. Setting out now, I realized that most of what I thought I remembered came not from the book but the film directed by David Lynch—no monstrous Guild Navigator in a Baroque fishtank, or festering Baron Harkonnen here. Some great scenes in this one, and the story moves at a good pace, if a bit abruptly in places. I love this retro cover designed and illustrated by Jim Tierney.
But now, when I tried to see the whole affair from the point of view of the self interest of each of the parties involved, the anomaly came to me suddenly.
The Quincunx, Charles Palliser
I spent most of the Christmas break reading The Quincunx, which somehow I’d managed to put off since it was recommended to me sometime in the 1980s. At 781 pages, it it the longest novel I’ve read in a while. It also weighs a ton. I think it left a permanent groove in my chest. It’s dense, immersive and in places harrowing. For this image, I paired it with Philip Davies’ Lost London, 1870-1945, which is filled with beautiful archival images of London. Both books are highly recommended.
I write down what I observe in my notebooks. I do this for two reasons. The first is that Writing inculcates habits of precision and carefulness. The second is to preserve whatever knowledge I possess for you, the Sixteenth Person.