Bewilderment

Bewilderment by Richard Powers. Cards from Sibley Backyard Birding Flashcards David Sibley

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.

Vesper Flights

I am enjoying Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald. It seems the perfect book for this moment. These essays vary in length and it’s the longer pieces I like best. My favorites so far are Tekels Park and In Her Orbit. Tekels Park reminded me of my own childhood explorations and In Her Orbit, introduced me to Nathalie Cabrol and her fascinating research.

Macdonald’s observations are always interesting and filled with unexpected pieces of information. Did I mention she writes beautifully? The thing I like best about this book is that despite the frequent acknowledgement about the sorry state of our natural world, there is an underlying curiosity and sense that there is still so much to see and learn about. I haven’t read H is for Hawk, but I will soon.