The Night Bookmobile

I sat with my son at Barnes and Noble this afternoon; it’s one of our favorite things to do together. We’ve drunk coffee, written in leather journals, and sat reading silently across the table from each other for almost twenty years.

As I perused the fiction aisles, with only gift cards to Borders in my pocket, I saw Audrey Niffenegger’s visual book, The Night Bookmobile. As eerie as you would suspect from someone who wears mahogany lipstick without mascara, calls Chicago home, and can credit The Time Traveler’s Wife to her imagination, this story is about a girl who encounters the bookmobile at four o’clock one morning while wandering from Irving Park to Ravenswood.

Inside, is every book she’s ever read.

But, she’s not allowed to be a librarian there because it’s only for the living…

In the After Words, I found this passage:

When I began writing The Night Bookmobile, it was a story about a woman’s secret life as a reader. As I worked it also became a story about the claims that books place on their readers, the imbalance between our inner and outer lives, a cautionary tale of the seductions of the written world. It became a vision of the afterlife as a library, of heaven as a funky old camper filled with everything you’ve ever read. What is this heaven? What is it we desire from the hours, weeks, lifetimes we devote to books? What would you sacrifice to sit in that comfy chair with perfect light for an afternoon in eternity, reading the perfect book, forever? ~Audrey Niffenegger

Tender Morsels

“A heart may desire a thing powerfully indeed, but that heart’s desire might be what a person least needs, for her health, for her continuing happiness.” (p.356)

Written as if the Brothers Grimm met Hugh Hefner, Tender Morsels is a bizarre fantasy.  At once alluring and repellent, I cannot decide if I like the book. But, it certainly was interesting.

Magically conjured moon-babbies intervene in death wishes, causing poor Liga to live in a heaven of her choosing rather than a ravine in which she thought to throw her baby then herself…boys become bears on Bear Day, running around in furred skins as if they were frat man: out to satiate every desire…Lady Annie tries to use her skills for good but learns that intervention is not necessarily the best solution to a problem.

I found lessons, though, within the story which are relevant to me:

  • You can’t hide in a world of your making, unwilling to interact in the flawed one that is our own.
  • You can’t overprotect your children, in trying to keep them safe and happy, for not only will they grow resentful, they will not develop their own lives.

Find other thoughts from Richard, Frances, Mee, Rhapsody In Books, Chris, Heather, and Emily.

Merlin’s Harp

I was drawn to this book from the very first lines:

When I was yet a very young woman I threw my heart away. I fashioned a wee coracle of leaf and willow twig and reed, a coracle that sat in the hollow of my two palms. In this I placed my wounded, wretched heart and set it adrift on the rain-misted wavelets of the Fey river, and I watched it bob and whirl, sail and sink.

What vocabulary…what imagery…what a marvelous way to re-imagine Arthurian legend. For within the pages of Merlin’s Harp we find all the well-known characters: Arthur, Merlin, Morgan Le Fay, Mordred, Gwen, and Lancelot. But, they are interspersed with the fey, fairy creatures with even-fingered hands and magical gifts.

The story is told through the eyes of Niviene, a winsome lass who meets Arthur while he is hunting the white deer. Their union produces Bran, who could have been raised by Merlin and brought up in royal surroundings. But, when Bran leaves his mother as a young child, she throws her heart away.

The rest of the book tells us of Niviene’s call by Merlin to save Arthur’s kingdom from the Saxons, and we are pulled into the story by Anne Eliot Compton’s magical writing, her magical rendering of this beloved tale.

Read Chapter 1 of Merlin’s Harp here.