Jan/Feb 2020

e c l e c t i c a   r e v i e w s  & 
i n t e r v i e w s

Reviews & Interviews

(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

Ann Skea reviews...

Simon's Cat: It's A Dog's Life
by Simon Tofield

Dogs, as Simon Tofield shows in the end-papers of the book, come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are alert and eager; some, like the happy poodle covered in bits of ripped pink balloon, are crazy; and some are happily comatose, flat out on the floor. Simon's cat, almost hidden in the middle of them, looks confused and apprehensive. Her kitten, between a Scottie-dog and a big, eager mongrel, just waits for the fun to begin.

The Dutch House
by Ann Patchett

When Danny was seven, his father brought a young, attractive woman called Andrea to the house for the first time. Danny remembers that even on her first visit, she seemed more interested in the house than in meeting him and his sister. Looking back, he believes "It had been Andrea's goal for years to get inside the house, to loop her arm through our father's arm when going up the wide steps and across the red-tiled terrace." Even his father once joked that she married him for the house. And once his father is married to Andrea, she turns out to be a modern version of the wicked, fairy-tale step-mother.

Norse Mythology
by Neil Gaiman

There are battles, bloodshed, magic, trickery, feats of bravery, endurance, betrayal, and love—all the things that have kept these stories alive since they were first told in the lands of the Vikings. Gaiman has woven together the prose and poetic Norse Eddas and has brought his own great story-telling gifts to the re-telling.

Washington Black
by Esi Edugyan

Wash's travels, initially with Tich, who treats him well and promises him his freedom when his own travels are done, take him around the world, from Barbados to "stinking" Norfolk, Virginia; then to Hudson Bay and an outlying trading post where they live in an igloo amongst Esquimau people, and where Tich abandons him; then to Nova Scotia; the Maritime Islands; Holland; and ultimately to (limited) success in London.

Out of Darkness, Shining Light
by Petina Gappah

First, however, we meet Halima, who was, in fact, David Livingstone's female African cook. She is talkative, sociable, opinionated, acute in her opinions of others, and often very funny. In re-creating Halima, Petina Gappah has relied for facts on Livingstone's diaries and on other contemporary accounts of the expedition.

A Good Enough Mother
by Bev Thomas

Unsurprisingly, the author, Bev Thomas, is an experienced clinical psychologist who works with mental health services. Her accounts of therapy sessions are real, informative, and convincing, but she is also a skilful writer who can bring her characters to life and suggest the hidden triggers that drive them. She is very aware that, as it says on the cover of the book, "The most dangerous lies are the ones we tell ourselves."

Matthew Wade Thomas reviews...

Jenny in Corona
by Stuart Ross

Half Jewish and half Italian, Ty describes himself as "Askenphardic-Sicilian," and as he tries to find his identity, he looks for it in the food he likes, wondering, "Is it more difficult to choose a God or a cuisine?" and ends up with a double dollop of guilt.

Peter Amos discusses...

Blood Meridian and Reading the Unreadable

I read Lolita (and Ulysses) in large part because I was tired of people telling me to. I had friends tell me Lolita was the best book ever written, or that I didn't know what I was missing. They'd look askance at me because I shied away from its reputation or dangle its importance in front of me like a cat toy. "You know, you're probably right, Peter. It's not for everyone."

Dike Okoro interviews...

Kobus Moolman
author of A Book of Rooms

My writing process is largely a tightrope walk, a terrible, flawed balancing act between my academic life (as a professor/teacher of creative writing) and my personal space as a writer. Writing for me is always about listening—listening to and listening out for something that happens inside. And this always requires stillness. Not necessarily the physical absence of sound (I can and often do write in a noisy pub or coffee shop), but a stillness inside myself. A space made by itself inside me, a space set aside for its own self on the inside.

Gilbert Wesley Purdy discusses...

The Castaway's New Year's Resolution
Most of my paper volumes on the topic came to me during the years I lived as something of a hermit. Public and college libraries had begun to cull their stacks. With the advent of the Internet, the classics lost what little general audience remained to them. Library branches were closing. Those that remained built new Internet computer rooms rather than grow ghostly, populated by napping homeless people.