Tag Archives: wondermous

{book} a legacy, a man, a company of men, and Ntozake Shange

30 days of pbDay Twenty-Nine: Ellington Was Not a Street

Written by Ntozake Shange

Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Simon & Schuster for Young Readers [text: 1983] 2004

ellington2The narrative of Ellington Was Not a Street comes from Ntozake Shange’s poem “Mood Indigo” (from A Daughter’s Geography, 1983). The poem, excerpted for the picture book, is a reflection of and tribute to a legacy of African American innovator, a “company of men” “who changed the world.” It is a personal poem of a young Shange (nee Paulette Williams) whose home nurtured and was nurtured by this company of men.

Only such gorgeously wrought poem could withstand the company of Kadir Nelson’s illustrations. The images themselves (as Sean, an Artist, breathed “precise”) have a precision a poet, too, would recognize.

 

ellington celebrating-the-duke

You may want to read with some kind of liquid precision the first time through, caught in a rhythm of the words, but plan the time to linger again and again on an image, a deeply impactful moment Shange and Nelson have crafted. It took me a stretch of time to pull away from the cover, then from the portrait facing the title page (‘piano’ image above). I was drawn to circle

our house was filled with all kinda folks

our windows were not cement or steel

our doors opened like our daddy’s arms

held us safe & loved

As the narrative acknowledges the simultaneity of then and now, the illustrations move back and forth in time between the streetscape whether the narrator reminisces and her childhood home. Her home is quiet, interior, full of warm patterns. The street is busy with a different sort of liveliness, other textures that are met with rain. The narrator holds a red umbrella amongst the institutionalized black, a “Don’t Walk” sign flashing at the intersection.

Our narrator, she is small in the presence of the company, her and her brother, and she is small in this house (another of her surroundings), but she is without question present, never forgotten, and cherished (e.g. a man’s suit jacket draped over her as a blanket as she sleeps on the couch).

ellington fps-133397_2zThe images are real, not abstracted. The poem is hardly abstract, but an illustrator could have reinterpreted the narrative into something more ephemeral. The detail in the setting, the verisimilitude of the portrait, the inclusion of a group sitting for a ‘photograph,’ these establish the very real and tangible existence of the life/lives represented.

Ellington Was Not a Street includes two pages of biographies using excerpted images from the narrative, “More About a Few of the Men ‘Who Changed the World’:” (I will list them as the book does) : Paul Robeson, William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) DuBois, Ray Barretto, Earlington Carl “Sonny Til” Tilghman, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, Virgil “Honey Bear” Akins, The Clovers.

The endpage at the close shares narrative the in its stanzaic form of “Mood Indigo.” Of course “Mood Indigo” is also a musical composition by Duke Ellington, so exquisitely observed on the vinyl held by our narrator on the cover: the record, an RCA Victor special of Mood Indigo by Duke Ellington and his famous orchestra. I have a YouTube option, undoubtedly a lesser quality, if you are interested.

Do I really have to say it? You really must find a copy of Ellington Was Not a Street.

ellington cover

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Ntozake_Shange,_Reid_Lecture,_Women_Issues_Luncheon,_Women's_Center,_November_1978

Ntozake Shange, Barnard College, Reid Lecture, November 1978 via Barnard College Archives

Poet, performance artist, playwright, and novelist Ntozake Shange was born Paulette Williams on October 18, 1948, in Trenton, New Jersey. She earned a B.A. in American Studies from Barnard College in 1970, and then left New York to pursue graduate studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. It was during this time that she took the name “Ntozake” (“she who comes into her own things”) “Shange” (“she who walks like a lion”) from the Zulu dialect Xhosa. She received an M.A. in American Studies from USC in 1973. […] She is the author of multiple children’s books and prose works, including Some Sing, Some Cry (St. Martin’s Press, 2010), If I Can Cook You Know God Can (1998), See No Evil: Prefaces, Essays & Accounts, 1976-1983 (1984), Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo: A Novel (1982), and The Black Book (1986, with Robert Mapplethorpe).

Kadir Nelson is an award-winning American artist whose works have been exhibited in major national and international publications, institutions, art galleries, and museums. Nelson earned a Bachelor’s degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. […] Nelson has also gained acclaim for the artwork he has contributed to several NYT Best-selling picture books including his authorial debut, “WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball”, winner of the Coretta Scott King and Robert F. Sibert Awards, and was published by Disney/Hyperion in the spring of 2008.

His corpus thus far is extensive: Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans (2011); Nelson Mandela (2012); He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands (2005); Baby Bear (2014); Change Has Come: An Artist Celebrates Our American Spirit (2009); Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, words by Carole Boston Weatherford (2006)…. you can find listings here and here.

{images belong to Kadir Nelson, words to Ntozake Shange}

 

 


{book} an antidote

30 days of pbDay Twenty-SevenI’m Bored

By Michael Ian Black 

Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi 

Simon & Schuster for Young Readers 2012

I'm Bored by Debbie Ohi

The potato was unexpected.

I did not read the inside jacket copy. I didn’t even notice the back cover. Browsing shelves, I saw the front cover, remembered it’s popularity when it was released, and added it to my stack of books. I dove straight into the reading.

im bored potatoA few pages in, after the self-pitying complaints of boredom, the child finds a potato and thinks it may be interesting. It isn’t. And it is, because they proceed to have an argument. The child has to prove that kids are not boring, stating that they are actually quite fun. The potato remains unconvinced, wishing it’d had a flamingo for company instead.

I flashed on an sequence of exchanges between Sherlock and Watson from BBC’s Sherlock…The potato suddenly adopted Benedict Cumberbatch as his voice talent. What was weirder was interposing Martin Freeman as the protagonist of the picture book.

The standoff between child and potato is hilarious—and effortlessly makes the story’s point about boredom. Children are capable of all sorts of activity/imagination. The ending is awesome. I rate the last pages of I’m Bored up there with the Hat books by Jon Klassen.

brought Charles Schulz's Peanuts to mind, to good effect.

brought Charles Schulz’s Peanuts to mind, to good effect.

The title page bearing a heavy bold blue title sets a good tone. Ohi follows with sweeping expanses of white page. There is nothing to distract the reader. We are left only with the protagonist who is bored—and to be appropriate, rather boring herself. She leans, lays, pitifully wails her boredom. She has every promise of liveliness in those pigtails, sunshine-colored clips, striped and pink heart t-shirt. Ohi and character begin to fill the space with imaginative sets to accompany her costuming, props and declarative adventures. The story picks up, crams images on pages, exciting the eye.

I’m Bored is a marvelously designed experience, and that is the only subtle aspect to this highly entertaining read that I know every family could benefit from right about now. Place Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi timeless picture book next to your copy of Paula Bossio’s The Line, and have it keep company with your books by Jeffers, Willems, Klassen, Barnett,  Reynolds and Santat.

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Michael Ian Black is a popular comedian who began his career with The State, a sketch comedy troupe he co-founded at New York University in 1988, which went on to have a successful run on MTV. […] His screenplay “Run Fat Boy Run,” starring Simon Pegg and Thandie Newton came out in 2007. Michael is also a stand-up comedian, who regularly tours the country. […] His first children’s book, “Chicken Cheeks” was released in January, 2009. His latest project is “Michael and Michael Have Issues,” a comedy series premiering in July 2009 on Comedy Central. Michael is married and has two children.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is a published writer and illustrator based in Toronto, Canada. After graduating from the University of Toronto with a B.Sc. in Computer Science and Psychology, I worked as a systems programmer/analyst for Toronto-Dominion Bank for two years before stepping off the corporate cliff and immersing myself in the arts: writing, teaching piano, and doing some freelance art. Ohi created a Web resource for writers called Inkspot which won a bunch of awards and a newsletter circulation of nearly 50,000. Inkspot began as a hobby but soon became a fulltime career.

Her first picture book that she is writing and illustrating, Where Are My Books? debuts from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in Summer 2015. Debbie’s illustrations appear in Naked! (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers 2014) written by Michael Ian Black. She is also the illustrator of three Judy Blume classics (Freckle JuiceThe Pain and the Great OneThe One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo) reissued as chapter books by Atheneum (2014) as well as on the covers of seven middle grade reissues including Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.

 {images belong to Debbie Ridpath Ohi, their text to Michael Ian Black}


{book} birth stories

30 days of pbDay Twenty-Four: The Baby on the Way 

by Karen English

Illus. Sean Qualls 

Farrar Straus Giroux 2005

the baby on the way1The Baby on the Way was not what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be about a boy who is feeling anxiety about a new baby sibling on the way. And maybe Jamal is and maybe there is a younger sibling on the way, but the book takes a decidedly other track. It is a story a grandmother tells about when she was born in a decidedly different time.

With his grandmother harvesting salad-makings from the rooftop gardens, Jamal suddenly wonders if his grandma was a little girl, or smaller yet, an actual baby. He looks and looks at her, trying to reconcile the differences. As they return to kitchen and have their salads, she tells him about when she was born, the tenth child. The story crosscuts time between kitchen scene and historical past and often places them beside one another with stunning full-page portraits.

the baby on the way021Jamal (and Reader) learn how it was, the traditions, the community. Grandma’s voice is unlike the narrator’s in a pleasing way, but both have a sweet and entertaining way about them.

Grandma’s story has Jamal wondering if he will have a story of his own someday. Grandma tells him he can and that she has his story to give him as well as her own, reminding us that her own story must have been told her. The story inspires further storytelling in Jamal and his grandmother and for the reader and their family.

the baby on the way041

Little wonder at the confidence in both writer and artist to allot text-only pages beside full-length artwork, the voices and illustrations have an understated appeal. This is my first picture book illustrated by Sean Qualls, and I can tell you there will be many more.

The Baby on the Way makes the child a part of something larger. We come to understand that the boy’s place in the story and family will be both unique and shared; like the grandmother’s. All birth stories can hold importance, not just that of the latest arrival, and English acknowledges that these kinds of stories are situated in community. English gives a ‘baby on the way’ story depth and scope, context and legacy, inspiring the reader to lift their eyes from introspection and desire to participate in not just their own specialness, but that of their family’s as well.

Now, if only all children were so blessed to have the storyteller from which The Baby on the Way benefits–and to commission Qualls to do their family portraits.

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Multi-cultural author Karen English has been writing children’s books since 1992. […]Many of English’s books focus on multi-racial friendships, feuding friends, resolving differences, and the internal struggles of young females facing a range of controversial issues from discrimination to questioning their own religious beliefs.” (blog for your book bio) English is a Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winning author and a retired elementary school teacher. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

books include: Francie (Farrar Straus Giroux 2002), Nadia’s Hands w/ Jonathan Weiner (Boyds Mills 1999), Nikki and Deja series.

Sean Qualls is an award winning, Brooklyn-based, children’s book illustrator, artist and author. He has illustrated a number of celebrated books for children, including Giant Steps to Change The World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis-Lee, Little Cloud and Lady Wind by Toni Morrison and her son Slade and Before John Was a Jazz Giant, for which he received a Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor. […] Qualls has created illustrations for magazines, newspapers, and advertisements. His work has been shown in galleries in New York and across the country. Sean draws inspiration from an array of influences such as movies, television, childhood memories, aging and decaying surfaces, architecture, old buildings, nature, folk art, fairy tales, Americana, black memorabilia, outsider art, cave paintings, collectibles, African art, golden books, vintage advertisement graphics, psychology, mythology, science fiction, music, and literature. He lives in lives in Brooklyn (where you can find him DJing on occasion) with his wife, illustrator/author Selina Alko and their two children Ginger and Isaiah.

do check out “Seven Questions over Breakfast with Sean Qualls” via Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast 

{images belong to Sean Qualls, text to Karen English}


knock for yourself…

30 days of pbDay FifteenKnock! Knock!: My Dad’s Dream for Me

By Daniel Beaty, illus. Bryan Collier

Little, Brown for Young Readers 2013.

knock knock coverEvery morning, I play a game with my father.
He goes knock knock on my door
and I pretend to be asleeptill he gets right next to the bed.And my papa, he tells me, “I love you.”
But what happens when, one day, that “knock knock” doesn’t come? This powerful and inspiring book shows the love that an absent parent can leave behind, and the strength that children find in themselves as they grow up and follow their dreams.—publisher’s comments.

It is not unusual enough for me to laugh loud enough to draw attention when reading picture books in public spaces. It is a rare moment for a picture book to draw a tear, even in private. Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is one that slays me every time. Seated with a stack of picture books in the studiously quiet adult section of the library, I was tearing up and sniffled beneath a few casual stares.

KnockKnock3I was first moved by the tender ritual between father and son. The heartstrings tightened to breaking when the boy wakes to find his father no longer there. It is a slow waking. A dawning is not fully realized until the end of the book when the boy has grown into a man with a family of his own, “For despite my absence you are still here.”

Why or where the father has gone is left without explanation. There are any number of reasons, nevertheless the little boy is left to deal with the reality of the absence and unrequited desires: “Papa, come home, ‘cause there are things I don’t know, and when I got older I thought you could teach me.”

knockknock2Like A Snowy Day (Keats) and Bird (Elliott) we see a boy sitting by the window looking out from the inside. We are there with him as he sends a paper airplane letter into flight.

The text is powerful on its own, the father’s letter is touching, and the son’s maturity aggrieved but inspiring as he comes to take on the dreaming for himself. But the images do more than hold their own. They have the kind of narrative complexity I usually anticipate with graphic novels. Everything about them moves to strengthen the evocation of the written narrative.

Collier’s photo collage and water color, the inclusion of textures and patterns–a life made up of clippings–gives the images layers, depth, the concrete complications of reality. Not only are the boy and his settings tangible, but the emotional conflicts as well. The most easily read is the rainbow on the wall that falls. I love the border of marching elephants, memory in a line on a bedroom wall, large in composition. The construction trucks crash together in the hands of a troubled boy. Instead of constructing something they become destructive. As the young boy grows, the childhood interest in construction, in building things, returns in a positive aspect for the man he would become.

knock knock pagesBuildings figure in as the story expands from a room to a kitchen to the neighborhood and we see the photographic images of children’s faces on tenement rooftops, and then street level the fading of a father’s visage. This is when the boy tells his absent father: “I want to be just like you, but I’m forgetting who you are.” We witness the juxtaposition and, indeed, the conflation of the forgotten and the forgetting. He is left imagining what it would be like to be a grown man, a husband, a father. Fortunately, the imagination proves able. He dreams and grows into an image of wholeness, of achievement, of being present.

Knock! Knock! is not one to only be especially selected for a reader’s situation. The narrative, the gorgeous visual storytelling, this is a book that should belong to everyone. If you can only own it for a little while (thank you public libraries) please do.

of note: I really really love that cover. It was appealing before the read, but so much more deeply felt afterward.

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Daniel Beaty  is an award-winning actor, singer, writer, and composer. He has worked throughout the U.S., Europe, and Africa performing on programs with artists such as Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Jill Scott, Sonia Sanchez, MC Lyte, Mos Def, Tracy Chapman, Deepak Chopra, and Phylicia Rashad. He holds a BA with Honors in English & Music from Yale University and an MFA in Acting from the American Conservatory Theatre. He is a proud member of New Dramatists and an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University. Both Emergency &Through the Night have are published by Samuel French and available online. Knock Knock is his first children’s book based on his poem.  Daniel has also written a Spoken World Ballet Far But Close that premiered in the 2012/13 season for Dance Theater of Harlem.  (via site’s bio)

the poem performed:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0jTeuBpn5s

Bryan Collier‘s “interest in art was always encouraged both at home and at school. He began to develop a unique style of painting that incorporated both watercolors and collage.

“Collage is more than just an art style. Collage is all about bringing different elements together. Once you form a sensibility about connection, how different elements relate to each other, you deepen your understanding of yourself and others.”

In 1989 Bryan graduated with honors from Pratt Institute with a bachelor of fine arts degree. Today Bryan spends his time working on his book illustrations, creating his own studio pieces, and going into classrooms to talk with teachers, librarians, and students about books and art. “I ask them to tell their own story. Then I ask them to tell their own story through art.

“The experience of making art is all about making decisions. Once the kids really get that, you see them making the connection. They go from saying, ‘That’s not about me’ to ‘Hey. Look at me. This is who I am.'” (via site’s “bio”)


gorgeously rendered

30 days of pbDay ElevenNasreddine

By Odile Weulersse, Illus. Rébecca Dautremer

Translated by Kathleen Merz

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers 2013

Orig. Flammarion 2005 (Fr)

nasreddine cover “No matter what Nasreddine tries, it seems that someone always finds something to disapprove of. Nasreddine is a legendary character popular in stories told throughout the Middle East, and this clever story will bring him to a new audience. Accompanied by stunning artwork, this tale offers a gentle reminder to readers that it isn’t always necessary to listen to the world’s criticisms.”–goodreads

nasreddine 1758327Nasreddine is worth picking up just to admire the cover and the artwork inside, but you should go ahead and read the delightful tale Weulersse has recorded inside. This one will go a long way for children and adults alike because no matter what young Nasreddine does, someone in the public sphere has something critical to say. Can such an old figure of wisdom in lore be any more timely?

nasreddine-pg-8Nasreddine is so small on the page, but always the most present that he does not risk insignificance—an important lesson to notice in and of itself. His father is marvelous and the world is rendered in such beautiful angles, colors and light.

nasreddine-pg-6

Nasreddine is just a gorgeous book from text to image and back again. No doubt someone will want to read the French, but I found no trouble with Merz’s translation. This one is an absolute must!

* There is a “Historical Note” at the close. It tells us that Nasreddine is spoken of in many stories throughout the Middle East as a man who has the “ability to offer both wisdom and delight.” I am enchanted by the decision to render him as a child learning from his own wise father. Imagine this child growing up to continue in his delight and wisdom.

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Odile Weulersse is an accomplished French author of children’s literature, writing historical fiction mainly. All this, of course, after earning impressive degrees at a young age before lecturing on Film and writing screenplays for television.

Rébecca Dautremer was born in 1971 in Gap in the South of France (Hautes Alpes). She attended classes in the ENSAD of Paris and got a degree in graphic edition in 1995. She afterwards became a graphic editor and illustrator. A few years ago, she started to write books of her own. Now living in Paris with her husband Taï-Marc Lethanh and their three children, she also works for the press for children (Milan-Presse and Fleurus-Presse), school publishers, and in advertising.  Her picture books are very poetic, with a hint of humour. Bio via goodreads

Dautremer has illustrated these books: The Secret Lives of Princesses by Phillipe Lechermeier (Sterling 2010), music-cd book Swing Café by Carl Novac (The Secret Mountain 2010), and many, many more that have yet to be translated from French into English, but might find in Spanish. And I’m interested to see her picture book app Eleanor’s Secret.

check out Kirkus Reviews

{images belong to Rebecca Dautremer}

 


{book} once begun

silence-once-begunSilence Once Begun by Jesse Ball

Pantheon Books, 2014. 232 pages

“The following work of fiction is partially based on fact.”

Over the course of several months, eight people vanish from their homes in the same Japanese town, a single playing card found on each door. Known as the “Narito Disappearances,” the crime has authorities baffled—until a confession appears on the police’s doorstep, signed by Oda Sotatsu, a thread salesman. Sotatsu is arrested, jailed, and interrogated—but he refuses to speak. Even as his parents, brother, and sister come to visit him, even as his execution looms, and even as a young woman named Jito Joo enters his cell, he maintains his vow of silence. Our narrator, a journalist named Jesse Ball, is grappling with mysteries of his own when he becomes fascinated by the case. Why did Sotatsu confess? Why won’t he speak? Who is Jito Joo? As Ball interviews Sotatsu’s family, friends, and jailers, he uncovers a complex story of heartbreak, deceit, honor, and chance.–publisher’s comments

Errol Morris brought more than justice to the wrongly accused when he brought The Thin Blue Line (1988) to the screen. He demonstrated how fiction lies within the justice system and how reality reveals itself in the imaginations of human perception. Both institutions and human beings can be corrupted; the question is whether doubt can lead to a liberating or confining truth. I thought of Errol Morris as I sank into Silence Once Begun, Jesse Ball’s latest novel.

“One has the impression one can know life, actual life, from its simulacrums by the fact that actual life constantly deceives and reveals, and is consistent in doing so” (4).

Jesse Ball, self-proclaimed professor of “lucid dreaming and lying,” exercises his particular gifts with the latter. We have a want to forget that as a gifted storyteller, he is a practiced liar. The heartbreak of increasing solitude and silence experienced in the narrator’s own life is raw enough to cite the provenance of a genuine artifact. “The following work of fiction is partially based on fact,” but what in the work is partial, or impartial? Silence Once Begun invites suspicion. What becomes awkward for the reader is when the suspicion is found directed not toward Ball or a character, but inwardly. Readers who favor romance and/or political activism will find themselves the easiest targets, among other professional prevaricators.

That smooth teller of tales that drew his reader in a single sitting through door after door and haunted them long after the curfew ended, confines the whimsy of his silvery tongue to his own “prefatory material” and Jito Joo. Joo takes on the silkiness of Milton’s Satan and I remain unconvinced that Kakuzo is able to vindicate her. Questions of love’s selfishness and sacrifice deepen the mystery Ball would document. As it is, the fans of Ball’s novels since Samedi the Deafness will be jolted awake by the halting language of concrete explication. Even the stories spun by relatives as a means to explain one another, find sentences short and constantly revisited. The language Ball adopts is not only one familiar to reportage, but translation—and the earnestness of finding the correct expression.

Oda Sotatsu’s mother is fond of telling stories by means of clarification: When talking with the mother, the interviewer notes how “the impression of exactitude remains” (18). He experiences a feeling that what she is saying is true; he sees what she sees before the evidence presents itself, before what she has seen appears (e.g. butterflies). Whether the mother is telling the truth about butterflies is negligent without a strong enough moral imperative. In Silence Once Begun, lives are hanging in the balance.

The interview is seeking someone to speak where Oda Sotatsu would not and now cannot. Once a silence had begun, can the silence ever be broken? The novel ponders how reputations are powerful constructs (29): how we are represented, expressed, speaks for us; it can certainly lie for us. Jito says of role-playing: “Each person chooses his life from all the roles in all the theaters. We are a prisoner and his love. For I am sometimes one and sometimes the other. You are one and then the other” (187). The liberated speak from a place of privilege and the imprisoned the limitation of choice. In a mystery based on mistaken identification, conversations on love and identity are the discourse that bind, and often blind the character and reader both.

“You don’t know me at all, I said, but I have a feeling that you know about something that I know” (Interviewer 163).

How can we truly know the other? We understand that different kinds of knowing exist. As one character after another jockeys for supremacy of knowledge, we test their validity. Jiro claims, “He hadn’t done it, because I believe he hadn’t done it” (45). The sister is an educated one yet distanced; Kakuzo is the architect of the crime and vain; Jito Joo, the most intimate of actresses.

Jesse Ball, the interviewer, is consciously aware of influence. How his ability to capture an image through a lens is affected, is made literal and then figurative when he takes photographs of the prison and other locations. He questions his ability to be objective, and the state of his relationship with an interviewee can be temperamental at best. He finds amusement and delight without anticipation by the reader. Even as it could be argued that “everything is contextual” (41), there is still the phenomena of surprise. Few could demonstrate the art of startling the reader into remembering that not everything can be anticipated nor traced back to an origin like Ball; which is key in a story where explanations are not just obscured, but elusive.

The attempt of the novel reads like Joo’s own: “I believe in discovering the love that exists and then trying to understand it. Not to invent a love and try to make it exist, but to find what does exist, and then to see what it is” (180). A sacrifice exists at the heart of this novel, more than one; and a person, more than one. Interpreting it and their meaning, to see what it is is a marvelous experiment, and a convicting one. At what point in the time-line is the act of invention initiated, because it would be dangerous to mistake Joo for not inventing a love into existence, wouldn’t it? Maybe your reading will disagree. Silence Once Begun interrogates human impulses: what we would remember, and what we would choose to conveniently forget.

If your cups of tea always require coherence in the mystery to be opaque in the end, to invite an explanatory flashback with solid connecting lines rather than perforated, any of Ball’s work will be uncomfortable, but none more than Silence Once Begun. This is not to suggest Ball leaves lazy gaping holes. His work is impressively spare. No, coherence needn’t have a clear answer everything, and Ball’s coherence artfully alludes to the corrupted nature to the human, the memory, the fictions we tell to make sense of things. The mystery is how we can ever pretend to be so very certain—so certain that we can carry through the life-threatening convictions that we do.

Jesse Ball’s provocation can be both frustrating and an absolute delight; which is how I could describe the conclusion. Ball makes the narrative personal and familiar, investing the reader in a summation that is as tidy as the novel will allow while yet demanding its lingering effect. He does not employ Errol Morris’ chilling play button on a tape recording at the end, but he does compel the reader to ask what it is we wanted to believe happened when the world turned upside down, when the expanding silence entered the room and asked us to wonder why.


{television} Miss Fisher’s second series

miss f header“Our glamorous lady detective, The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, swans into early 1929 Melbourne, fighting injustice with her pearl-handled pistol and her dagger-sharp wit.”

No need to imagine my delight with the second series return of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2013) if you’ve read my ravings about series one or have seen the Australian television show for yourself. We signed up for a free month’s trial for Acorn TV (which we are tempted to subscribe to once we’ve the funds) so we could get our greedy medium-sized hands on the latest 13 episodes. Please, renew, please renew for a series 3!

If you are unfamiliar with my reasons why you should watch The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) and company at work: read my ravings here. and then catch series one on Netflix, I believe they are still streaming.

In the meantime…Season/Series 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsnhHvlHDOw

Miss Phryne Fisher, Lady Detective, returns to television with as fabulous a wardrobe as ever, and the mysteries aren’t too shabby either. Of course, the interactions between the primary characters of absolute interest. The evolution of Dorothy “Dot” Williams (Ashleigh Cummings) continues in an exciting fashion. And the ways in which the male characters respond to the ‘new woman’ and their own societal pressures/expectations is especially emphasized this season—and not at the cost of Fisher’s ideals.

miss f s2 stats b miss f s2 stats

We get to meet:  Dot’s sister—who is decidedly not Dot-like. Aunt Prudence’s (Miriam Margolyes) husband (in a flashback). Learn more about Hugh’s (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) familial background. And Jack’s ex-wife Rosy, and his (ex)father-in-law join the cast…

That romantic-friendship tension between Jack (Nathan Page) and Phryne…yeah, it gets even more delicious and so achingly sweet. And if you don’t leave certain shows wanting to hug Hugh and Dot, you’ve no romantic bone in that body at all!

We are still recovering from World War I, so mysteries related continue. Other excitements include: Gentleman’s clubs; Seances; Temperance Unions; Pugilism; Gangs; Haute Couture versus Ready-to-Wear; Football; Labor abuses/trafficking; Race Car driving (ladies); Religion; University life; and madness; creepy rural villages; Radio Shows; Silent cinema; and Christmas in July.

miss f s2ep1

(1) “Murder Most Scandalous” dir. Tony Tilse, written by Kristen Dunphy

Miss Phryne Fisher is back! When Jack’s father-in-law is implicated in the brutal murder of a prostitute, Phryne decides to perfect her ‘fan dance’ in order to go undercover at a gentleman’s club.

(2) “Death Comes Knocking” dir. Ken Cameron, written by Ysabelle Dean

Phryne plays host to ghostly soldiers and exotic spiritualists and Aunt Prudence is swept up in the new spiritualist fad and enlists a famed psychic to contact her dead godson.

miss f s2ep3(3) “Dead Man’s Chest” dir. Ken Cameron, written by John Banas

Buried treasure and pirate legends bubble to the surface in the seaside holiday town of Queenscliff and Phryne finds herself at the pointy end of a Spanish dagger.

(4) “Dead Weight” dir. Declan Eames, written by John Banas

When a gang leader is found dead outside a travelling boxing tent, Phryne’s investigation leads her into the dangerous but thrilling world of fight rigging & tribal payback.

miss f s2ep5(5) “Murder A La Mode” dir. Sian Davies, written by Kristen Dunphy

When Phryne arrives at the exclusive fashion house of Madame Fleuri for a fitting, she unexpectedly finds herself amidst a crime scene, and everyone present is a suspect!

(6) “Marked For Murder” dir. Declan Eames, written by John Banas

Set amidst the passion & fanaticism of 1929 Australian Rules football. When Phryne is duped into investigating the coach’s missing ‘lucky cap’, she discovers a gruesome murder instead.

miss f s2ep7
(7) “Blood at the Wheel” dir. Sian Davies, written by Michelle Offen

When the driver of the ladies’ motorcar rally team is found dead in her roadster, Phryne is up in arms struggling to convince Jack that her friend’s death was no accident.

(8) “The Blood of Juana the Mad” dir. Peter Adrikidis, written by John Banas

Now estranged, Phryne and Jack step around each other to investigate a murder and the disappearance of a valuable manuscript.

miss f s2ep9(9) “Framed for Murder” dir. Peter Adrikidis, written by Chris Corbett

Phryne journeys into the twilight world of silent movies. When a lead actor and a director are murdered, Phryne steps in to solve the crime and save the production.

(10) “Death on the Vine” dir. Catherine Millar, written by Chris Corbett

When Phryne arrives at an idyllic vineyard to investigate a suspicious death, hostile townsfolk do everything they can to drive her out of town, and Hugh prepares for a perfect proposal.

miss f s2ep11(11) “Dead Air” dir. Catherine Millar, written by Ysabelle Dean & Mia Tolhurst

There’s a new wireless in the Fisher household – and a murder on the airwaves. Dot suffers the realisation that she doesn’t want to relinquish working for Miss Fisher when she marries.

(12) “Unnatural Habits” dir. Tony Tilse, written by Ysabelle Dean

The gothic world of a halfway house for pregnant & wayward girls sets the scene for the death of a teenager. Phryne & Jack realise the threads of the crime lead closer to home than they suspected.

miss f s2ep13(13) “Murder Under the Mistletoe” dir. Tony Tilse, written by Elizabeth Coleman

Phryne, Dot and Dr Mac accompany Aunt Prudence to a picturesque chalet to celebrate Christmas. When they arrive they find one of the residents dead and soon the body count starts to rapidly rise.

{episode synopses via ABC Australia}


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