In the Mail

One of the new things I thought I would try this year is something I call “In the Mail.” I don’t get as many books as I am sure the heavy hitters of the literary blogosphere do, but nevertheless I do regularly get more books in the mail than I can or want to read. So I thought it would be worthwhile to mention those books I get in the mail so that readers can be aware of them and the publisher is rewarded for sending me books (something I want to encourage). So below is the inaugural edition of “In the Mail.” Let me know what you think.

Non-Fiction

– C.S. Lewis has made quite a splash lately with the success of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie. On my TBR pile is The Narnian by Alan Jacobs. An interesting companion to all of this Lewis focus has recently come to my attention. The C.S. Lewis Chronicles by Colin Duriez is a day-book – a sort of biography by accumulation – that tracks Lewis’s life and provides daily insights and events of significance. If you or someone you know is a fan of Lewis this would make a great gift.

– What could be more interesting to a bibliophile than life in a Paris bookstore? Here is Publisher’s Weekly on Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer:

Mercer, a former Ottowa Citizen crime reporter, finds himself at Shakespeare one gloomy Parisian day in 1999, in his late 20s, with not much money and no plans for the future, trying to evade some angry newspaper sources back home. With little fanfare, he is taken into the store by its owner, George Whitman, a kindly yet scatterbrained man, who explains, “I run a socialist utopia that masquerades as a bookstore.” Mercer begins working as an eager unpaid employee, running errands, acting as a referee between the writers who hang out there and ringing up sales (it’s no B&N superstore: when Mercer asks where the credit card machine is, he’s told, “Dude, Shakespeare and Company doesn’t even have a telephone. Of course we don’t take credit cards”). Mercer portrays the assorted characters and their adventures with an eye for detail and a wry sense of humor. Francophile book lovers will enjoy his finely crafted memoir.

Sounds interesting, no? I would love to get back to Paris and check out Shakespeare & Company myself. Since that doesn’t seem likely any time soon perhaps this book will have to do.


– Being a history buff I am always on the lookout for authors who make history interesting; who take a unique angle to illuminate the past. J. Edward Chamberlin seems to qualify. His Horse : How the Horse Has Shaped Civilizations looks like a fascinating blend of subjects. Chamberlin draws on “on archaeology, biology, art, literature, and ethnography” in order to illuminate “the relationship between horse and human throughout history.”

Fiction

– Readers of experimental fiction will want to check out Our Ecstatic Days by Steve Erickson. Bill Sheehan in the Washington Post has this advice:

Readers entering the labyrinth of Our Ecstatic Days, Steve Erickson’s first novel in six years, are advised to check conventional notions of reality at the door. Erickson’s fiction, the best of which includes Arc D’X, Tours of the Black Clock and Rubicon Beach, has always been elusive and dreamlike, and this new book, a delirious portrait of post-millennial America, is his most extreme narrative experiment to date.

Sheehan acknowledges the challenges but still comes away with an appreciation:

Our Ecstatic Days is an extravagant, outsized accomplishment filled with extravagant, outsized flaws, which include a persistent weakness for gaudy, overheated metaphors (“Every honeymoon twilight, across the house’s threshold the lake is carried by its lesbian groom the moon, with a bridal train of small dead animals . . . “) that undermine the narrative. But for all its convolutions and stylistic excesses — and for all the demands it makes on the reader’s patience — it is the work of a serious writer with a singular, deeply personal vision.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season – oh, and watching golf too).

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