Tag Archives: book



The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems
Editors: Jen Bervin and Marta Werner
Publishers: New Direction/Christine Burgin (2013)
272 pages
Product Dimensions: 12.7×11.8×2
Source: Library copy

How did she do it? How did she write so many wonderful poems. This book provides a bit of a look at Emily Dickinson and her process.

One of the treasured finds at the library last week was this art book. In December I posted a short piece on the writing page concerning Emily Dickinson and this book. It sounded so interesting. I hoped I would be able to find it. And there it was at the Southeast Branch of the St. John’s County Library.

How to best share this book of illustrations, a book that depends on the visual, using words is the question. The first paragraph of Susan Howe’s preface is helpful. I lean on her words.

This book is an exhibit created by a textual scholar and a visual artist. It presents facsimile reproductions of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. It allows the reader to “look and touch, and turn from one (envelope) to another.” A transcription accompanies each poem. Dickinson’s characteristic handwriting––something like bird tracks––can be easily read.

In her opening essay Jan Bevin tells us something of Emily Dickinson and the “scraps” that are her manuscript. Her writing tools become visual art to hold her text. We can only imagine how one affected the other.

In the largest section of the book the reader is treated to a visual display of envelope shapes and words. Looking, reading and thinking, one feels connected to Dickinson and her time. Marta Werner takes readers on a tour of the visual and the textual in the third section titled “Itineraries of Escape. I am not a Dickinson scholar, yet I want to spend time with this book reading lines of poetry, letters from her life and Werner’s explanation.

There is more. It is a large book. If you love Emily Dickinson’s poems, if you are interested in the process of writing, if you revel in the beauty of visual size and shape, I urge you to take some time with this book. A unique experience is waiting for you.




Are you looking forward to seeing The Book Thief become a film?

What can we expect when one of our beloved books arrives on the big screen? The Book Thief opens this week in New York City and by the end of the month the film will be playing in Detroit.

Since it was published in 2005, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak has become a classic. It is an imaginative and creative telling of the power of reading in a dangerous time. The narrator of the story is Death. The heroine is a spirited young girl named Liesel. She lives in Germany during World War II. The book has been deeply enjoyed by many. It stands up to multiple reads.


Some advance information makes the film sound promising. John William’s score has been almost universally praised. We can have high hopes in that department. The film is directed by Brian Percival who directed many episodes of Downton Abbey. I loved Downton! Many reviewers have praised the performances by Sophie Nelisse as Liesel, and Geoffrey Rush as Hans Hubermann. The movie was filmed in Berlin, and I hope that means that it is visually authentic. Some have called it a compassionate film. I’m a fan of compassion, and if that is what the film delivers, I’ll be pleased.

On the other hand, I’ll not get my hopes too high. In the trailer Liesel’s hair is beautiful and books burn, but little else raised expectations. Apparently, the film is opening to mixed reviews. That may give all of us much to talk about. The New York Times was less than enthusiastic. No review I’ve read gave high praise. The fresh-faced beauty of the young actors as seen in still photos gives me pause. Will the movie be fantasy rather than reality? What will we see of war, deprivation, love, and courage?


Also on my mind. I loved the character Rudy in the book. How will he fair in the movie? It may be that the movie-makers got hung up on whether this was a movie for children or adults? But, if reading and writing are shown to be more important to humanity than fear and war, I know I’ll be applauding!

Children survive because of their resiliency and the adults that care about them. I hope we see that. I hope we see that the written word is valued. That’s what I expect this movie to deliver in a believable way. If it does that, I can’t wait to enjoy it.

Oh, and one more thing. I wonder who will voice Death?

If you see the movie, let us know what you think!


A House in the Sky

A House in the Sky
By Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
Publisher: Scribner 2013
367 pages
Source: personal copy

Amanda Lindhout struck me as a young woman always wanting to cross another country’s border, to travel to more countries, to live more experiences, more, more, more until the door slammed shut on that kind of life when she was kidnapped in Somalia. Her account of that 460-day ordeal shows how a door opened for her to triumph in an impossible situation, as she found the ability to recognize and practice forgiveness and love. She learned about thankfulness in the most unlikely of places.

Though this optimistic and determined young woman endured beatings, gang rape, starvation, many days in darkness and filth, during her long ordeal, there is restraint in telling the unspeakable. The authors allow events to speak for themselves. Ms. Lindhout showed respect and understanding for the captors and for the friend who shared her captivity. She wanted to learn about her captors and felt empathy for the circumstances of the mostly young teenagers who guarded and abused her. Here is a woman who showed true grit.

Along with her co-author Sara Corbett, she has written a gripping account of growing up in Canada, life as a backpacker around the world, her hope of becoming a journalist, and her kidnapping a few days after entering one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Ms. Lindhout loved the exhilaration and freedom of travel. What is freedom? This freedom story is part mistaken identity, part adventure, part risk, part courage, part loneliness, but mostly kidnapping and atrocity for Amanda Lindhout and the ex-boyfriend she was traveling with and for her mismatched group of captors. And yet, never for a moment did she stop searching for freedom. That is a part of what makes the book so interesting.

Today Ms. Lindhout heals from her experiences. Her redemptive acts include starting The Global Enrichment Foundation. This organization supports educational initiatives in Somalia and Kenya where many Somalis have sought sanctuary. Through her work with this group she builds a stairway to hope for herself and others, just as she built stairways to rooms in the house in the sky–the place she would go in her mind when the degradation of torture and nearly unbearable living conditions overwhelmed her.

This book is mystery, thriller, memoir, travel book all in one. It is well written with a strong narrative and important themes. This resilient woman offers inspiration that any one of us can tap into. She goes beyond courage to forgiveness. She never loses her desire to learn. She seems able to overcome a dehumanizing experience through striving for understanding.

I will continue to think of her story, not only her life and experience, but the lives of others who in some way shared her experience. She has made her story about more than the horrors that she endured, about more than whether or not she would ever be freed. She has given us a story of forgiveness, endurance, and a true triumph of the spirit.