Contrary to appearances, I haven’t forgotten about this site. In fact, I was wrangling with the draft of a post about Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark for ages, before feeling like I couldn’t do justice to the book, and giving up. And then several weeks passed, and it seemed too embarrassing to come back. You know, like when you think you really must get in touch with that old friend, or reply to that email, but then you sort of don’t get round to it, and then by the time you do, it’s far too late to be socially acceptable, so you continue to fail to communicate. Well. I’m back. So much time has passed that it’s not embarrassing anymore. Go on. Do the same thing with those unanswered emails and long-lost friends. You know. If you want to.
Anyway. I think one of the reasons I failed to finish the Solnit post is that it isn’t the right time for me at the moment to be attempting lengthy and in-depth reviews. So instead, I’m going to list some of the books I’ve read recently, and then just say a few words about them. Not too taxing. Nice and breezy. I can do this. Here we go.
Mixed Magics, by Diana Wynne Jones
I hadn’t read any Wynne Jones for years and picked this up in January for some much-needed light relief. It was great to go back into the world of Chrestomanci. The four stories in this collection all feature him in some way, but are self-contained with their own characters and settings. I was reminded of how enjoyable it is to read anything by Wynne Jones. I am always in awe of the workings of her mind and the ingenuity of her ideas. I’m aware that this is perhaps a rather vague review. This is what happens when you leave things too long, folks.
Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art, by Susan Aberth
I should do better with this as I finished it more recently.
I can’t remember where I first saw a Leonora Carrington painting, but I know it was about ten or so years ago. It must have been a picture on the internet, or maybe in a book. I was captivated by her ethereal, quirky imagery and felt an immediate connection.
I had this book by Susan Aberth on my wishlist for years, but never got it. Then a friend very kindly gave it to me for my birthday last year. I’ve spent the last few weeks reading it in the evenings, luxuriating in the coloured prints. Aberth’s text, while not particularly sparkling, gives a fascinating insight into Carrington and her eventful, often tempestuous life, most of which I knew nothing about. Aberth also gives close readings of some of the paintings, revealing the symbolism and associations present in even the smallest details, and how these intimately relate to Carrington’s own life and her ongoing themes of rebellion and feminism.
I felt privileged to gain this richer impression of Carrington. I’ve always thought of her as an influence that is kind of embedded in me, along with Tori Amos and Margaret Atwood, I suppose because I found them all at the right age. Three wise women.
Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit
I finished this quite a long time ago, too, but I really must try to write at least something about the book. It deserves it. Okay.
Hope in the Dark is a stimulating and intensely thought-provoking read about the power of activism. The ‘dark’ in the title is not necessarily a bad dark – Solnit quotes Virginia Woolf in saying that it just means unknown, which is the best one can hope for. Amongst many other profound and nuanced observations, Solnit emphasises that campaigning for change is not something that is finite: it is a slow and continuous process, and often instigated by those in the margins, although this is usually forgotten when the change becomes absorbed into society. I’ll stop there because I again feel like I’m not doing the book justice. I’ll just say that it was sometimes challenging, definitely rewarding, and highly relevant today, despite being written in 2004.
I’ll be back soon, hopefully with thoughts on Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things. And by soon, I mean soon. Promise.