The featured image is a detailed crop of Robert McCurdy’s stunning portrait of Toni Morrison. It currently hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. I encourage you to check out the full piece. Morrison’s impact on American culture and literature cannot be overstated. She lived an inspirational life and left this world a better place. Her voice will be missed, but her legacy will last forever.
“Otherwise, I know I’m often wasting my breath and electronic ink saying this, but the “real-world” is a pretty weird place where lots of inexplicable things happen all the time, and I like to catch the flavor of that too. It just seems more modern and authentic to me as a storyteller. The “real world” doesn’t come with the neat three-act structures and resolutions we love to impose on it, and if repeated doses of movie and TV-storytelling have convinced anyone that it does, it‘s time to get out and about a bit. The real world is filled with ghost stories, non-sequiturs, inexplicable mysteries, dead ends and absurdities, and I think it’s cool to season our comfortable fictions with at least a little taste of what actual reality is like.”
Someone has been sending me mysterious gifts, and I have no idea who’s doing it.
There is a reason they’re doing this: I don’t like birthdays. I have no problem with them as a concept, and I don’t mind getting old. My argument against them is curmudgeonly, and I’m sure rooted in my disdain for Facebook (and what it’s done to birthdays.) As a result, I usually keep my birth date to myself which means most of my friends are always trying to guess when it’s my birthday. Which has now led to strange packages arriving willy-nilly.
Several months back—someone, I have no idea who—randomly sent me Judith Schalansky’s amazing Atlas of Remote Islands and with it came a note saying it was a gift for my birthday—whenever it happened to be—I posted about it on Instagram. To this day I don’t know who sent it, and Kari-Lise (who seems to know) isn’t telling.
It is not your birthday. There is nothing here for you.
Okaaaay… that’s a touch mysterious. To add to the puzzle, the box was empty, but it still felt heavy. It didn’t take long for me to realize the package had a false bottom, so I flipped it over and broke the seal on the bottom. There I found another compartment, and inside was another book, Charles Pierce LeWarne’s Utopias on the Puget Sound 1885-1915—an examination of five historical communitarian settlements that once existed locally. It also came with a note, and that note bore a single word:
The box came from the “DLB-Reinforcement Div” the return address pointed to Des Moines, Washington—a small city south of Seattle. When I searched for the address, I got nowhere. It didn’t seem to exist. This wasn’t entirely unexpected, the first box I received had a return address that pointed to a non-address as well. Strange yes, but also quite compelling.
So, the mystery remains! I have no idea who sent this pair of books. Both books look amazing. I can see how the Werner book will come in handy during my writing and the utopia book sounds fascinating. I knew we had a history of communes here in the Pacific Northwest. I didn’t realize how deep that history goes. I do appreciate these gifts.
While the Bell Forging Cycle novels aren’t specifically Crime/Mystery, they do have elements that would be familiar to readers of those genres. (Murder!) Hence my interest. I found Stasio’s thoughts on character-driven fiction vs. puzzle/plot-driven stories were interesting ones. Especially on how she feels it relates to a book’s length. I don’t this shift is specific to novels within Mystery. Her same complaint could be leveled on some of the current trends happening within speculative fiction.
It’s a quick listen. I found this to be a fascinating glimpse into the working of a prolific reviewer. Big thanks to Kari-Lise for encouraging me to check out this episode of Criminal. I really enjoyed it and think you will as well.