Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
The focus of this book is the plight of the infamous Donner Party. Long heralded as perhaps the most lurid example of American cannibalism, the episode of the Donner Party has lodged in history's craw in a way that rivals any other single event in the era of the Westward-bound wagon trains. Today the story maintains a cult following, many of whom overlook the most important part of the story -- how it affected the individuals within the party.
In this book, Gabrielle Burton turns our head to look at this part of the story, the part that is much more difficult to keep in our sight. She does this through the voice of Tamsen Donner, as given in journal entries and letters written to her sister and never mailed. While crafted by Burton for the book, these entries and missives speak from Burton's absorption of Tamsen's history through a variety of sources and over a span of many years.
What I found remarkable about this book was the fact that I forgot I was reading it. Tamsen speaks through the pages to the reader, and before long the reader feels as though they know her. She confides her frustrations to us, her recollections of the journey that landed them behind winter's unforgiving door, shutting them in their unwanted mountain holdfast. We glimpse the character of her companions, the character of her own self and that of her husband, George, and the fresh-formed faces of their five daughters.
We hear the hints of unrest among the eighty pioneers that started out together to make a new start on the west coast. Bit by bit, the events that formed the smaller group that found themselves stranded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains are laid out before us, as recorded by Tamsen, gathering her recollections as the supplies dwindle and the winter lengthens.
What kept me coming back to the book, in spite of the ostensibly melancholy and desperate nature of the tale, is the grace and honesty with which Tamsen's voice tells it, with every ounce of her lively sensibilities.
While the wretched state of the residents of the camp is present and unavoidable, even in the face of ruin there remain sprinkled throughout crystal-clear moments of hope and joy, a testament to the spirit that drove the Donners to undertake the journey in the first place. There is humility and respect for humans in their direst states. There is an acquiescence in the face of unavoidable facts and in the face of choices that must be made in a worst case scenario. There is a refusal to give up without doing what is best and right for the people whose well-being one finds oneself responsible for.
All this rings through Tamsen's narrative, in her honest questions of herself, and in the transparency of the events as they unfold against the starkness of their winter siege. I found myself asking myself what I would do if I found myself in her place. I also found myself glad to know her, and glad to have read this book.
For those of you who are interested, Ms. Burton has started a Facebook discussion page for fans of the book.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Buying people's books en masse is both exhilarating and painful. Having been forced many times to cull my own bookshelves before I moved, I find these memories very visceral, and going through someone's library with them as they do the same is an experience that produces a tremendous amount of pathos as well as uplift from the sudden freedom from physical burdens.
But I'll let Ronni Bennett tell you about her side of the story in this article on her blog, Time Goes By...
click here: Sorting a Lifetime of Books
Photo by Ronni Bennett.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
As the man himself says, "Come on out, it’ll be just like seeing your favorite band in concert (if they didn’t bring their instruments, and didn’t actually play anything, and hid off stage while I read from my book)."
(photo from Joe Hill's site)
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Gothicmangaka, an exhibition @ The Green Hand Bookshop
March 5th – March 31st, 2009
The Green Hand is pleased to present GOTHICMANGAKA from March 5th to March 31st, a solo show focusing on the exceptional artwork of Tom Brown.
Portland artist and comics creator Tom Brown offers a selection of intricate pencil work, including The Blind Fisherman sequence from his webcomic at www.itisacircle.com and work from The Hopeless Vendetta – a fictional online newspaper www.hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com
WHAT: First Friday Artwalk opening of Tom Brown's Gothicmangaka
WHERE: 661 Congress Street – Portland, ME 04101
WHEN: Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Friday 11-6, Saturday 11-7, Sunday 12-5
Opening Reception: Friday, March 5th, 5:00-8:00pm
FMI: (207)450-6695 or email michelle.souliere[at]gmail.com
The Blind Fisherman is set in a fantasy-historical island off the coast of Maine. The imagery derives in part from Tom’s love of gothic literature and the trappings of weird tales. He is influenced by the Lovecraft tradition, but is also a keen observer of natural phenomena. Fantastical elements mingle with striking land and seascapes. Imagined flora and fauna nestles amongst more familiar forms. This is a re-imagined past, heavily influenced by Victoriana and Steampunk, but evolving its own aesthetic.
The manga influence primarily informs the character design and story telling. Figures have a stylized quality with emphasized facial features and expressions. Conventions of story telling inform the page layout. However, Tom also draws on western traditions, and does not adhere dogmatically to manga forms, resulting in a distinctive and hybrid style.
Tom works on Vellum Bristol comics boards using graphite. Images are created through shading and blending. The process gives finished images an unusual softness and a great deal of texture. Work is later adapted and colored digitally for use in the webcomic, but this show offers the hand-drawn pieces in their original state.
Tom can also be found online at www.mothfestival.wordpress.com and www.copperage.deviantart.com and is open to commissions. "Hopeless" is a collaboration between Tom and the UK author Brynneth N. Colvin http://www.brynneth.org.uk/
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The Court Of The Air by Stephen Hunt (both hardcover & UK softcover editions)
The Headless Bust: A Melancholy Meditation For The False Millennium by Edward Gorey
Spook Country by William Gibson
The Knights Of The Cornerstone by James P. Blaylock
Theodosia And The Serpents Of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers (recommended juvenile fic)
Waifs And Strays by Charles De Lint
Insiders' Guide To The Maine Coast
The Haunting Of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding
The Whitechapel Horrors: A Sherlock Holmes novel by Edward Hanna
Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti
Twilight Of The Clockwork God: Conversations On Science And Spirituality At The End Of An Age
A Witch's Box Of Magickal Protection
Hart & Boot & Other Stories by Tim Pratt
Grey by Jon Armstrong
Majestrum: A Tale Of Henghis Hapthorn by Matthew Hughes
A Collector's Journey: Charles Lang Freer & Egypt
Discover Maine: AMC's Outdoor Traveler's Guide To The Pine Tree State
Egypt Style (Taschen Icon series)