Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mary and O'Neil

Arthur in darkness---drifting---the planet spinning toward dawn; he awakens in gray November daybreak to the sounds of running water and a great arm brushing the side of his house. The wind, he thinks, the wind; the end of autumn, the last of the leaves pulled away. The running water, he understands, was never real. He lies in the dark of the bedroom he shares with his wife, waiting for the dream to fade---a dream which, together, they sail over a cliff into blackness. What else? A sense of water below, a lake or stream, miriam's hand in his, of everything loosed from the earth; a feeling like accomplishment, shapes fitting together with mathematical precision, all the equations of the heavens ringing. A dream of final happiness, in which they, Arthur and Miriam, together, at the last, die.
Opening paragraph, pg. 1
This first paragraph can give the impression that this is a dour, introspective story. But, this is not a morbid novel--series of linked chronological short stories--even though the subject matter is often poignant, sad, thoughtful. Here's another sampling:
Mary and O'Neil: They were like any couple...
And yet, there was something uncertain about them it was hard to say why. Their love was electric and sensual---O'Neil, for instance, sometimes placed his nose against Mary's cheek, simply to smell her skin... And their lovemaking surprised them with its ease. So many years of nervousness; why had no one told them that sex was meant to be funny, and that they could say the things they wanted to and ask for what they liked? They were happy, it was true; they had reached a point of happiness in their lives, a place of rest after a journey of some difficulty, and they frequently marveled at this fact: how, of all the people in the world, and all the lives they might have led, they had somehow found this one together.
pgs. 167-168
As usual, The New York Times says it best.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Historian

A Note to the Reader
The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper. Recently, however, a shock of sorts has prompted me to look back over the most troubling episodes of my life and of the lives of the several people I loved best. This is the story of how as a girl of sixteen I went in search of my father and his past, and of how he went in search of his beloved mentor and his mentor's own history, and of how we all found ourselves on one of the darkest pathways into history. It is the story of who survived that search and who did not, and why. As a historian, I have learned that, in fact, not eveyone who reaches back into history can survive it. And it is not only reaching back that endangers us; sometimes history itself reaches inexorably forward for us with its shadowy claw.
She had me from paragraph #1! Inexorably... Love the word.
adverb relentlessly, inevitably, irresistibly, remorselessly, implacably, unrelentingly Spending on health is growing inexorably. Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002

While reading and loving The Swan Thieves, I saw Elizabeth Kostova's earlier book--The Historian--had received international attention, so I checked out the reviews. And then, shied away because I don't enjoy fantasy and keep away from occult.

"Breathtakingly suspenseful and beautifully written, The Historian is the story of a young woman plunged into a labyrinth where the secrets of her family's past connect to an inconceivable evil: the dark fifteenth-century reign of Vlad the Impaler and a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive through the ages. The search for the truth becomes an adventure of monumental proportions, taking us from monasteries and dusty libraries to the capitals of Eastern Europe - in a feat of storytelling so rich, so hypnotic, so exciting that it has enthralled readers around the world."

"Never was a ghost story so casually erudite, nor a historical travelogue such gripping entertainment."

---New York Magazine

Skipping this book would have been such a great loss. I learned so much middle-eastern European / North African / Mediterranean history, and am fascinated to read and research more. We've traveled some in Hungary, France, The Carpathians... And, one tends to latch onto and be mesmerized by the somewhat familiar.

I figured out that Svaty Jur, Slovakia--near our son's family's home until recently-- is named for the very same St. George (Svety Georgi) who plays a pivotal role in the searches involved. It's the old Six Degrees (or less) of Separation.