By Angie Georgeff
Good news! We have new materials arriving just in time for the spring pollen, so if you are stuck indoors, you can at least be entertained. We recently received another book order, which is being cataloged and processed, and placed an order for DVDs, which should arrive soon. Along with new novels by the usual suspects, we have chosen books by authors with whom you may not be so familiar.
George Saunders’s historical fiction/ghost story “Lincoln in the Bardo” sent me to Google to find the definition of bardo. In Tibetan Buddhism, it is a transitional state of existence between death and rebirth. For Westerners, it suggests a kind of limbo where spirits may linger after death until they decide to move on. The novel is set in 1862, on the night when President Abraham Lincoln visits the Washington, DC cemetery where his eleven-year-old son Willie has just that day been interred.
While the cemetery appears to be deserted, it is filled with spirits that are reluctant to move on. Disturbed by his father’s visit, Willie Lincoln’s spirit is among them, and the others seek to persuade him to complete his journey to the Other Side.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kathleen Rooney’s “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk” celebrates life. Inspired by the life of Macy’s advertising executive and poet Margaret Fishback, Rooney takes Lillian on a walk through her beloved New York City. It is New Year’s Eve 1984 but style-conscious octogenarian Lillian is warm in the mink coat she bought herself in 1942. She intends to dine at Delmonico’s as she does every New Year’s Eve and then walk through the city to attend a party hosted by a young photographer whom she met in the park. Along the way, she encounters a motley succession of her fellow New Yorkers and recounts the story of her artistic life and remarkable career.
“A Piece of the World,” by Christina Baker Kline, the bestselling author of “Orphan Train,” considers the circumscribed life of Christina Olson. Despite–or perhaps because of–the limitations imposed on her by a debilitating disease and the demands of her family, Olson inspired Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting “Christina’s World.” In the foreground, a woman wearing a pink dress has been crawling through an amber meadow toward an isolated farmhouse situated at the top of a gentle slope. Her head is raised and she is gazing toward the weathered house. We do not see her face and therefore cannot read her thoughts. And so we speculate.
In 1939, Wyeth was introduced to the middle-aged Christina Olson by his future wife while he was summering near the Olson farm in Cushing, Maine. In later years, Wyeth set up his studio in the house Christina shared with her younger brother, and in 1948, Wyeth painted “Christina’s World.” Kline’s book imagines what that world was really like and how the renown of the painting affected Christina.