Two months ago my wife and I walked downtown to see Mr. Holmes, with Sir Ian McKellen playing an aging version of the science-conquers-superstition Sherlock Holmes. I found myself crying in the dark as McKellen’s trembling, frail Sherlock struggled in his final years to solve one final mystery: why a woman he almost loved took her own life.
When you read children’s literature you expect to smile at the quirky characters fumbling to figure out their growing independence. You might expect to cry as you watch characters face the pain of growing up.
You don’t expect to be confronted by current events like a refugee crisis—and inspired to imagine the kind of society we could be even in the face of terror and fear.
I recommend Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Mothers, Tell Your Daughters (Norton), a selection of short stories about mostly hardscrabble, down-market women in southwestern lower Michigan. Campbell makes fiction look easy.
My Christmas picks take you from the soil to the supper table. The essays in Dirt: A Love Story (ForeEdge Books) celebrate the mystery and meaning of soil. Artists, scientists, farmers, and writers take you from community gardens transforming the Bronx to the oldest soils in the world in Venezuela to the past and possible future of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.
I’ve been engrossed in The Story of the Lost Child, the fourth in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels (Europa Editions). The series follows the friendship of Elena (the narrator) and Lila (her fiery and fearless friend) from girlhood to old age.
Some call us yesterday’s bees, working old honeycomb. Are we only circling, a phrizz of amber, un-hived? The call to be golden crescendos within, clothed in stone, a kind of falling, over and over. “Sink deeper,” is one whisper, all winter, earth like bronze and scores of husks—the exiled, shattered. Workers know this: honey splits the great hum, come spring. What is a life without lavender, rag-tag monarda, or the silky cosmos?— myriad shivers of wing, months of rehearsing hunger, bowing down in the warm dark, the pregnant dust, with its little sails.
Ten refugees have been selected to compete in the Summer Olympics in Brazil this year. Five of them are runners from South Sudan who have been living in Kakuma, a refugee camp in Kenya. The Sudanese will be joined by two Congolese judo fighters, two Syrian swimmers, and an Ethiopian marathoner. Anjelina Nadai, one of the Sudanese runners, said she first started running while tending her family’s cows. She discovered she could get to the cows in half the time by running instead of walking. These athletes will compete under the Olympic flag, not that of any nation. If any of them should win a medal, the Olympic theme song will be played (The Christian Science Monitor, June 3).