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 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.
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.
An illustrated edition of my novel Tailor of Echoes will be published sometime in the spring by PS Publishing in the UK. I’m really pleased about this as they did such a great job on my collection Magpie’s Ladder. Over the winter, I will be drawing the illustrations, and I’ll post a few teasers here.
I let this blog rest over the summer while I adjusted to all things Covid along with the rest of the world. But, autumn is almost here, a time when I always feel particularly connected to all things book related. I’ll be posting about my work, my current reads, interesting covers and illustrations and so on. I hope the blog will pick up some new readers along the way.