Spring is coming. A fresh newsletter opens. Other readers share their experiences. Where you are, we are. Where I am, you are. This is reading. Please enjoy this time together, with other readers. For more, please visit our bookstores and take a book home by a new author. There you will be and they will be, exploring your selves. Hope you enjoy these reviews and our events. Here's to Spring!
John & all Dieselfolk
When I first started at Diesel, Adrienne, the then-manger, told me I should read Altered Carbon,a hard-boiled science fiction novel with a nail-tough anti-hero. Since then, I've been a big fan, (for the most part at least, as I wasn't too happy with Market Forces). With The Steel Remains, Morgan is back in top form and exploring new ground. The narrative braids the stories of three war-heroes who survived a war wherein humanity barely survived; all are known and have reputations, but they're all a little older and a little...worn. Ringil: a prince who is called back to his home city to rescue a niece from slavery; Archidi: a counselor to an emperor and last of her race; Egar: an exiled leader of a nomadic people and a knowing pawn of terrible forces. Each carries his or her own burden - Ringil is reviled for his taste for men, Egar has been betrayed by his own family, and Archidi must defend a people that fear her. Now, a race lost to myth have returned to take back a world they consider their own, and, yes, only these three can stop them. Despite that rather trite narrative impetus, fae-like creatures, preternatural swords, gods-come-to earth, and many other tropes, Morgan manages to surprise, creating a grittily realistic world that pushes the fantasy genre way past its usual limits. The Steel Remains looks to be the first of a trilogy, and I can't wait for the other two! -- Trevor Calvert
As we re-explore the resonant period of the Great Depression in coming to terms with our own, there is no greater documentary record of that time than the Farm Security Administration's photography archive collected under the extraordinary leadership of Roy Stryker. Sending photographers and writers into the field to capture the material circumstances and heartful resilience of the working poor, he preserved and shaped our memory of this time of human dignity and desperation. Created in the '70's but not published until now, The Likes of Us has been valiantly published by David Godine at the moment we most need it. For the first time showing the artful editing hand of Stryker on the profound winnowing of stories and images of the FSA's program, it shows the far reaching possibilities of enlightened government programs, under the right direction, to create jobs for artists and writers in public service which give back a thousandfold on their investment in resources. Beautiful, fascinating, and extremely relevant, this collection provides the work of Evans, Walker, Lange, et al, along with the context to fully re-imagine our past and perhaps our present and future. -- John Evans
The genius of Elizabeth Strout is in eliciting from the reader such deep feelings of empathy for a character who more often than not thinks, says and does so many things that make you cringe with embarrassment. Olive Kitteridge's world view is often narrow and cranky and unintentionally funny; she's that 8th grade math teacher you were probably terrified by. And yet, her fine-tuned sensitivity to a former student's anguish is hauntingly beautiful and spot on. An ensemble of small town characters enrich these linked short stories, set in a tiny town in coastal Maine. I'm not as big a fan of Anne Tyler as I am of the less prolific Strout, but Tyler's readers will especially love this book. -- Margaret Simpson
Since the vehicle for contemporary graffiti art has been abundantly large posters, blatantly political stencils or obnoxiously loud colors, the idea of impossibly tiny models strategically placed around London would seem to be not only the road less traveled, but also less practical. Slinkachu is an artist who crafts incredibly small ceramic models of people, cars, doors, ATMs and then sets them in appropriate locations across the city. The carcass of a dead bee lies next to the model of a small girl and her father, who appears to have shot the bee from the sky. A model of a vagrant lies on the street next to a few pennies four times the vagrant's size. Two figurines of children go for an exploration of sorts - inside of an empty box of Marlboros. The fact that Slinkachu's art goes unnoticed helps to serve his broader point of giving homage to moments and experiences that are overlooked or taken for granted. To make them any larger would be counterintuitive and pretentious. This is simply the most incredible street art I have ever seen. - Jon Stich
Shaun Tan's brilliant wordless picture book The Arrival introduced to a wider audience an illustrator already well known to collectors of fine illustration. In his new collection of stories ("for children of all ages") he proves he is a master storyteller as well. The impulse to locate him by evoking others (Neil Gaiman, Peter Sis, Chris Van Allsburg, even Bruegel) is really a disservice because Tan is both unique and their equal (well, maybe not Bruegel). Pushing the boundaries of even graphic novels, this innovative collection is for older readers (10 and up) and their adults to savor together. -- Margaret Simpson