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I learned this week, thanks to an article in the Wall Street Journal, that I actually have a favorite genre. Technically, it’s not a genre; it’s more of a technique or style, but being a reader who has never before been able to claim a more specific taste profile than "general fiction," I could now say that I’m a fan of Slipstream. This term, while not really new, has recently been gaining more of an audience. Slipstream was actually coined back in 1989, by critic and author Bruce Sterling, in an essay addressing the evolution of his genre. He was eager to separate what he considered to be true science fiction, from the stories that simply incorporated elements of the genre. So he called this area of science fiction “slipstream.” He explains the genre thus:
And he goes on to describe other characteristics. The whole essay is available online here.
Before, I would often apply the term magical realism, or realistic fantasy to the stories I preferred to read most, but that never quite seemed adequate. Sometimes the stories would contain charming supernatural creatures, mysterious plant life or visitors from another time or dimension. Other times the stories simply presented a reality that was slightly off kilter, creating an almost dreamlike atmosphere, and would make little attempt to directly address the dissonance. Kelly Link, in a recent NPR interview, describes her stories, many of which are written in this way, as adhering to a “night time logic”, similar to the way the mind, while asleep, sort of accepts the events in a dream, events that would confound us when awake.
I’ve collected some of the titles that fit this type into a Pinterest board on our Chelmsford Library Pinterest page,and included links for a few recent examples above. So, the next time you’re feeling a bit mischievous or playful, or would like to read something a little more out of the ordinary, try one of these books.
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A complete list of Winterfest events is available at http://www.chelmsfordlibrary.org/winterfest/, along with a map of event locations. There are lots of fun happenings all around town - but be sure to check out the events taking place at the library:
We've had plenty of snow already this year, and this weekend is the time to get out and enjoy winter!
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Ok, I've been on a binge of graphic novels this past month. But, that's because there are so MANY that are SO GOOD!! This one has to be my reigning favorite (outside of the Marvel and DC Universes that is). It tells the story of a rather prickly restaurant owner and chef, Katie. The restaurant, Seconds, is doing a brisk business and Katie wants to open an additional restaurant across town. The location is in a less desirable area but the building has historic charm. Life is good.
After a series of mishaps and accidents at the restaurant, her life is starting to seem not so good. One night after work, she falls asleep wishing she could reverse all the bad that has happened. Waking in the night she finds a mysterious girl crouching on her dresser. (Stay with me here) As the girl slowly disappears from view, Katie finds a small notebook and a red mushroom left behind.
Within the notebook is a recipe for a do-over, a second chance to make things right. All Katie has to do is write down her mistake in the notebook, eat the mushroom, and things will go back to the way they were. Katie, a type-A personality, cannot be happy with making things the way they were however. She succeeds in finding the source of the red mushrooms and begins redoing her entire life over and over to disastrous results.
With chibi-like characters, bright coloration, and unusual framing for a comic, it is a delight to the eyes yet remains a cautionary tale. How many second chances can you have without your life becoming unrecognizable as your own? The answer lies within.
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What better way to spend a snowy afternoon than with a really great page-turner. Here a few suggestions to help eat up those hours indoors:
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins: TGOTT is being heavily marketed as the next Gone Girl – it’s even been optioned for film by Dreamworks. This fast-paced thriller follows Rachel, a thirty something Brit whose life is descending into shambles, due to being jilted by her husband and a developing drinking problem. After a few devastating misjudgments, Rachel finds herself embroiled in a mysterious disappearance rife with timeline gaps and unexpected suspects. As with Gone Girl, the book relies on the accounts of different characters to tell the full story, those accounts are mostly unreliable, and the plot of the novel is full of twists that catch the reader off-guard.
Her by Harriet Lane: Set in London, and full of sharp social and psychological insight, the narrative unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Nina and Emma, two thirty-something women whose lives have led them down very different paths. On the surface, Nina is a trendy artist and Emma is a harried mother of two. Nina knows Emma somehow, but Emma shows no indication that she knows Nina when they meet. What is the connection between these women, and why does Nina suddenly take such an interest in Emma? Motivations are revealed and the result will not disappoint.
Another title to watch out for is called The Kind Worth Killing, by Chelmsford native, author Peter Swanson. His first book, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, is a gripping mystery that takes place in Boston and the North Shore, and was hailed as one of the best first novels of 2014 by the Washington Post. His latest, a re-imagining of Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, begins on an overnight flight from Boston to London, where two strangers form a dark bond over a plot to commit murder. Nelson DeMille calls it “an extraordinarily well-written tale of deceit and revenge told by a very gifted writer…The twists are not just in the plot; they are also in the heads of the plotters.”
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This book has been on my nightstand for a long time and I finally had the time to read it. Stitched into a series of vignettes, the story follows the life of a 500 year-old illuminated Haggadah. Hanna Heath, a book conservator tasked with the job of ensuring the stability of the book, travels from her home in Australia to Sarajevo, Bosnia where the book is under heavy guard. Upon taking the book apart to restitch and fix small holes in the binding and seams, she finds evidence of where the book has been throughout its 500-year history. The story alternates between the present (in this case 1996) and the past. The story of the Haggadah is told in reverse chronology - moving steadily backwards, ending with the creation of the drawings that become the Haggadah.
Not only a story of a book as the title would suggest, but in many ways a history of the Jewish struggle to exist in a world that found reason after reason to make that as difficult as possible. For a student of history as I am, I found more questions than answers that have led me onto more history books about the history of the Jewish people.
If you have never seen an illuminated Haggadah take a look. They are absolutely gorgeous. I had no idea until now that they existed.
Bottom line: I am told that it is a tough book to read because of the alternating plot lines. I didn't have the same sensation perhaps because I listened to it. Try it and see and then come join us at the main library on February 6th, 2015 at Noon to discuss.
NB: I checked this book out of the Chelmsford Public Library. I received no compensation from this review.
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