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The Bone Clocks

David Mitchell’s newest novel The Bone Clocks will feel familiar in many ways to readers of his previous books, and especially to readers of Cloud Atlas. In Cloud Atlas, as many will remember, Mitchell provides an ascending series of first halves of stories, a single “keystone” story at the center which is complete, followed by the second halves of the incomplete stories in descending order.  It’s been 10 years since I read it, but the experience stands out in my memory. Each nested story deepens and amplifies the others. The audacious structure that might have been the ill-advised gimmick of a lesser writer is a sturdy and dazzling latticework of bright prose.  As a young reader, I remember feeling stunned by this accomplishment. The Bone Clocks is in a sense the continuation of what Mitchell began in Cloud Atlas, alloying the absurd and the quotidian in the same crucible by marrying a prodigiously fertile imagination with a clear and robust literary talent.

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The Art of Tove Jansson

Queen of the Country of Youth

 

Many readers will be familiar with Tove Jansson’s name for her most cherished creations, the plump, hippopotamus-like Moomins.  Curious but often a bit shy, adventurous but beloved of cozy domesticity, and most of all, happy and free, the Moomins and their friends live in a world charged with the same bright energy as a memory of childhood. As in childhood, when everything is fresh and unprecedented, everything can be extraordinary, from the most mundane to the most significant. Jansson was deeply attuned to this way of viewing everyday events throughout her life, and it imbues her artwork with an honesty and clarity that is unparalleled.

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Writing in Books, and “The Most Beautiful Eulogy Ever Written”

Title page and frontispiece

 

It can – and does – happen, dealing in books every day, that a gem may pass through one’s hands without being recognized. A wonderful book, especially an older book, may not necessarily call much attention to itself. Damaged paper wrappers, stains, foxed and badly-cut pages, faded gilding, loose hinges and sun-damaged spines; all these and more can not only reduce a book’s value, but also conceal what it might contain from the less-than-vigilant browser. But many of the most special books we at Logos see are in this, or a similar, condition.

Nowadays books are packaged, like anything else, to appeal to particular demographic markets. To my eye, they are often flashy, with gimmicky graphic design strategies and supermarket-tabloid colors and arrangements. Like anything else, sometimes this marketing turns out okay and sometimes it’s dreadful, even intolerable. Maybe that seems to be putting it a bit strongly, but books are very important to me, and I tend to take it personally when I see the essential dignity of books being undermined (and the intelligence of their readers being insulted) by cheap but dazzling visual flapdoodle. I admit that I judge books by their covers without shame, and did so even before it was part of my job. With newer books, I believe there is little or no risk involved in this kind of snap judgment; these books announce, unsolicited, what they’re all about, who they are and aren’t for, and, in my opinion, whether or not they are worth your time. With older books, it’s a bit different; they hide in plain sight rather than drawing attention. Even at their most extravagant they often exhibit a dignified reserve; satisfied, it seems, to rest their reputation on their contents rather than their appearance alone, however luxurious. This is how a gem may pass through ones hands without being recognized and given its due. Continue Reading