This week’s newsletter is brought to you by something that’s on the tip of our tongues and the letters R, X, and H. Hang on, we're sure it'll come to us in a bit.
Memory is a funny thing, and we’re reminded this week that one of the great thinkers about memory, Oliver Sacks, is no longer with us. In fact, he’s not been in the fleshy space for awhile, but fortunately, his thoughts and books persist. The River of Consciousness, his book on memory, science, and other things that were on his mind during his last few years, is now out in paperback. We picked it up a little bit ago and learned about Nachträglichkeit, which is a vague sense of having done something before, but, really, it’s just your brain dumping that buffer it’s been hanging on to because of something you did just now. Kind of like when you are looking for your keys and you suddenly remember thinking about making marmalade a week ago.
Of course there’s a German word for that. There’s a German word for everything.
And speaking of things we’ve been meaning to get around to, we’ve got a new coloring book that causing us to wonder where we stashed the colored pencils. Gnomes in the Neighborhood is a whimsical collection of pictures of little folk as imagined by Denyse Klette. These gnomes are sort of a cross between Hobbits and Fraggles, and knowing our taste in color palettes, are going to look like they’ve been dressed by Bob Ross and that aged hippy from Burning Man who keeps running across the playa in a half-ton of silk scarves.
There’s probably a German word for that sensation you’re having right now. The one where you’re scrunching your nose like the dog just let off a massive SBD and you’re wondering if it is possible to use bleach on your brain to erase one—no, several—images that we’ve just dropped in your brain.
Anyway, it’s fall. It’s raining. Time to break out the coloring books again!
And speaking of reaching for that bottle of vodka you’ve got stashed in the bottom drawer [Ed note: What? I was not!], there’s a sequel to Tequila Mockingbird, though this one probably won’t be as polarizing as that other sequel to the book that the first book was parodying with its boozy title. [Ed note: We’re sure it makes sense in your head, but we’re still trying to diagram this last sentence.] That’s right, it’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margarita. More cocktails with a literary twist! Including new classics like Madame Brewery, The Island of Dr. Merlot, Drinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Extremely Drunk and Incredibly Close. The last drink there is a twist on the classic Manhattan, which may or may not be a good thing. Time will tell.
If we remember anything in the morning, that is.
Well, enough silliness. Let’s get down to this week’s weighty tomes. Weighing in at a wrist-straining four and a half pounds and 748 pages is Michael Beschloss’s Presidents of War, an ambitious title that has been ten years in the making. Chronicling Presidential war-making from 1812 through the current era, Beschloss has combed through personal letters, private diaries, and declassified documents to craft an eye-opening discussion on the perils, pitfalls, and providences of being the guy who makes the tough call to put their country in harm’s way.
And speaking of landmark events in the early part of the nineteenth century, the next volume in Peter Ackroyd’s long-running history of England is out this week. Dominion covers the time period from 1815 (that would be the weekend after the Battle of Waterloo) through Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 (that would be the last weekend in January), and given that Queen Victoria was Queen of England for 63 years and seven months during that 85 year and six month period, we’re pretty confident we can call this one Ackroyd’s “Victorian” book.
And speaking of confidence, Brené Brown is back this week with Dare to Lead. Brown, who has been exhorting all of us to stand up and grab our confidence with both hands, has turned to talking about leadership this time around. Leaders, she argues, are both the folks who dare to suck at the front of the room, and the people who lift up those around them by not being diminished by the suck. Leadership, Brown says, is about knowing yourself well enough to support and grow those who depend on you.
Or, as the German idiom goes: Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf her.
And speaking of works in translation, we have a new Haruki Murakami book this week. We’re not even sure we can parse the flap copy on Killing Commendatore coherently enough to reduce it to a flippant sentence or two, and so we’ll just note that the book features another brilliant design by Chip Kidd and that Steve Erickson is likewise in awe of Murakami’s prose. Murakami, Erickson says is “the novelist of our mash-up epoch and the subversive who, by intent or not, lit the fuse to whatever ‘canon’ of the previous century anyone still takes seriously.”
Something we can parse readily enough though is Dr. Veronica Wigberht-Blackwater’s Compendium of Magical Beasts, which is a delightfully illustrated edition of cryptozoology’s most elusive beasties. It’s not just a handful of sooty pages with scratchy pencil drawings, no, this compendium is marvelous in its illustrations, thorough in its textual descriptions, and fabulous in its tone. We’re also quite taken with Dr. Wigberht-Blackwater’s last name, and find that in good keeping with the fantastical nature of the subject material.
And speaking of fantastic beasts and where to find them, we also have the illustrated edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which, as you all know, are made-up fairy tales for made-up characters—who are more real than some actual people, depending on how much you identified with Harry Potter, of course. Lavishly illustrated, this edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard can go on your shelf next to your illustrated edition copies of the Harry Potter series.
And on our ever-growing graphic novel shelf, you can find the latest trade edition for The Wicked + The Divine, which has the best twelve-page summary of an eighty-nine year period of pre-history that we’ve seen in a while, as well as the latest trade of Saga, which we’re still not going to talk about. Because we’re in denial, that’s why.