Wednesday, December 31, 2008

#66, 67, and 68

Not a particularly satisfying year, tally-wise. Nowhere near the century goal, alas! But read great stuff. Today I'm abed with a fever and sniffles, which gave me time to add to the total.

Again with the NYRB press! Patrick McGrath, himself a worthy crafter of spooky fictions, has assembled a fine selection of Daphne Du Maurier's uncanny and uncannily good tales. A couple vacationing in Venice are visited by the apparition of their own dead daughter. A woman with failing vision has it surgically corrected, only to discover it best not to see too well after all. Our fine feathered friends run amuck and only those most prepared will weather the storm. A mountaineer loses his wife to a climb, but not at all in the typical manner.

Du Maurier's stories are quite good--I'd rank them near my favorites (M.R. James, Ramsey Campbell). The characters are charming, the plots are intriguing, the prose is of rare quality for gothic fiction. Often there is great humor and irony, and an occasional bit of sexiness thrown in for good measure. I'll seek out more.

I'd had the idea from decades-old college courses that Boethius was a Christian philosopher. Not in this slim volume! Facing execution by Theodoric, Boethius takes consolation in the Perennial Philosophy: everything is always all right. Once you see past the vale and cease dwelling on the plane of duality you have achieved all which needs achieving, because you are, like everyone else, God.

Of course Boethius merely faced execution and torture; he never faced a B'more City middle school.

I've read many of these Discoveries pocket-size books. This one is worthy as an introduction to alchemy and its study through the millenia. The illustrations are alone worth the price of the book, especially since I got it for $3 at Daedalus.

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