This week's keywords are "social distancing." For a lot of writers out there, this is synonymous with "Monday." Also, "Tuesday," "Thursday," and "most of the weekend." Wednesday is the Day of Bright Lights and Squawk Boxes and Oh, Don't Forget The Box Wine. All of which is to say as we sort through the intricacies of social distancing, we're starting to realize this is what writers do all the time. But they're doing it for art, so it's not that weird.
So, as you drop by (spaced out in six to eight foot intervals, thank you very much) to pick up that stack of books you're going to be reading over the next few weeks, know that writers everywhere thank you for leaning into this period of time when you get to experience what their daily existence is like. They have, after all, been diligently working for years to make sure you don't have to do awkward things around the house like figure out the wiring of that light switch in the hall that goes the wrong way, or why that sink in the guest bath doesn't drain in thirty—or even sixty!—seconds, or find the directions to that board game that you've been meaning to try, but which is clearly too complicated to just unbox and play.
Thank goodness for reading, right?
And what do we have for you this week? Well, let's start off with a couple of things that might be handy to have around. Faith G. Harper's This is Your Brain on Anxiety and Raleigh Brigg's Make Your Place. Because, as we've alluded to above, most of us aren't ready to be spending a bunch of time by ourselves, in our homes. There's a reason we go to work, and it's because facing the laundry that hasn't been put away is super daunting. And stressful. But it doesn't have to be.
Dr. Faith's This is Your Brain on Anxiety is a classic of the FIY (Fix It Yourself) community. What is anxiety? Why do we have it? Why does it flare up on days when I have to go to that place with the bright lights and squawk boxes? All these questions and more are answered in this tidy tome which dispenses with the glad-handing (because we're not shaking hands right now, yes?) and gets right down to the elbow greasing (because we are still greasing elbows, yes?). Know your enemy, dear readers, and your enemy is your own damn brain. But it's okay. Dr. Faith knows the cure.
And, if you're going to be in your own headspace and personal space for an extended period of time, eventually you're going to run out of something. Raleigh Brigg's Make Your Place is the only book you're going to need. And no, not because it's printed on biodegradable post-consumer recycled paper that is soft on your butt, but because it's filled with all sorts of marvelous and ingenious ways to craft useful tinctures, tonics, shrubs, soaps, creams, unguents, and cleaners. And, yes, surfaces need to be wiped down more than once or twice a year.
Once you've got all of that sorted, you'll be ready to dive into Joscelyn Godwin's The Greater and Lesser Worlds of Robert Fludd. What? Fludd was the Renaissance's Renaissance Man. He was a physician by day, and a Hermeticist, a Rosicrusian, an alchemist, an astrologer, and inventor by night. Basically, he's the 17th century's version of Batman. And he left notes.
[ And yes, the person responsible for putting this idea into your head has been informed that if he's going to do that, he really should follow through. We understand that there's a "list," which, again: writers, garrets, the great solitude and mystery of the creative process, bla bla bla. You know the drill. Eye roll at will. ]
Speaking of exciting historical figures, Hilary Mantel is back this week with The Mirror & the Light, the final book in her fictional retelling of the life of Thomas Cromwell. As you may recall, things have been a little testy around court, what with Henry VIII not being all that keen on his current wife. And Henry's previous wife? Still alive and not entirely happy about Cromwell's role in all these royal shenanigans. The previous two volumes in this trilogy both won the Booker Prize, and we suspect the third will likewise wow everyone.
And speaking of things coming to an end, Clive Cussler passed away a few weeks ago. Clive has been wrangling co-authors for some time, and so we expect there will be no shortage of "new" Clive Cussler novels in the future, but we should take a moment to note the passing of a titan of the geo-political adventure thriller. Many young boys wanted to be called "Dirk" when they grew up. Only one actually got that privilege.
Here's the thing. By writing himself—the actual walking, talking, smirking, silver-haired diver—into his novels, Cussler has made it clear that Dirk Pitt is not just a stand-in. Pitt wasn't a thinly disguised fantasy figure, the sort that Cussler dreamed he was, while he was sitting on his ocean-view verandah, sipping from some 200-year old whiskey and puffing on a cigar that he not only hand-rolled, but hand-grew on a mountain plantation that only he and nimble goats could reach. No, Pitt was fiction. But then Pitt had a kid, who was also named Dirk. And Clive Cussler had a son, who HE named Dirk. And Dirk co-wrote some of the books, which were about Dirk Pitt (not his dad) and Dirk Pitt's son (also named Dirk), who was fiction, and not a stand-in for his own youthful and adventurous bad-ass self. So, yes, even though these novels were straight-up adventure fiction of the globe-trotting, mustache-twirling, action-boom-boom style, they were also sorta meta. Except, they weren't.
Or were they?
Anyway, judging by the Library of Congress categories, Journey of the Pharaohs is about marine scientists, arms dealers, and antiquities—which is to say "like every other Clive Cussler novel." We'll have a stack at the counter. You know what to do.
And speaking of memoirs, Rebecca Solnit's recollection of San Francisco during the 1980s is out this week. Recollections of My Nonexistence traces Solnit's growth into a vibrant and valued feminist voice. Solnit, who first introduced us to the term 'mansplaining,' believes that having a voice is a critical part in being able to participate in the conversation, and she uses the course of her own life to offer some illumination and education about the value of learning to be very visible in today's patriarchal culture.
And speaking of interesting backstories, Alma Katsu is back this week with The Deep. Katsu, who managed to make the Donner Party's experience even more terrifying in The Hunger, has a secret history of the Titanic to share with us. The Titanic, you see, was haunted, and it's up to a couple of equally haunted (and probably doomed) characters to avoid the same fate aboard the Britannic, the Titanic's sister ship. We dig Katsu's ability to infuse historical narratives with occult horror. We've got a couple of bags of Ruffles All Dressed potato chips and a piss jar, so we're ready for a marathon read.
Oh, we have to keep it short this week. The critters need to take care of the store. Before we go, we'll like to point you toward the sidebar up at the top there. Bookslingers and our book club meeting later this month are postponed. We'll roll conversation about Wolves of the Calla into the next Bookslingers meeting, so keep reading! We shall return to March's book club pick, Amy Stewart's Girl Waits With Gun, at a later date. And the Author Swizzle on the 21st is cancelled. The next Swizzle is in July, and we'll just roll everything to that one.
In general, we'll be here. We know you need books and some social interactions. We, of course, have an abundance of both. In the meantime, take care of yourselves. We expect to see all of you regularly for many years.