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Family Is Everything in For a Muse of Fire

Heidi Heilig’s new book, For a Muse of Fire pulls the reader into a vibrant, lush world inspired by Asian cultures and French colonialism. The story follows Jetta Chantray, a young Chakran shadow player of the Ros Nai troupe, as she and her family strive to win passage to Aquitan, the home of the Aquitan emperor and a spring rumored to cure madness. But Jetta’s malheur, her madness, is only one of the secrets she keeps. Jetta has the ability to slip souls into new skins, and in a world still haunted by the brutality of the mad nécromancien Le Trépas, the old ways have been abolished, punishable by death or worse. Heilig weaves a complex tale, balancing the powers of colonization, rebellion and a family caught in between.

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Breaking Silence is Not Sharing a Secret: Speaking with and Reading Dr. Rosenna Bakari

It is time to break our silence. After speaking with Rosenna Bakari ’11 and hearing her insights on living as a survivor of sexual assault, it is evident that it is time for women to live openly about their experience with assault and move past the discomfort in order to reframe the conversations we are having about the topic. Much of the rhetoric and literature about violence against women has channeled women’s stories into a feed dominated by conditions that maintain comfortability among audiences. In Rosenna Bakari’s  recently published memoir Too Much Love Is Not Enough, she discusses the relationship between silence and psychological trauma in a way that imbues its audience with her own personal reality in an honest, relatable fashion. Dr. Bakari is a Cornell alumna whose story and dedication to creating a space for survivors is beyond inspirational.

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Ready Player One: A New World for Readers and Characters

When I saw the trailer for the cinematic adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, it almost deterred me from reading the novel. But what seemed like an archetypal hybrid of Tron and Divergent is in fact its own body of work, with unique ’80s culture references, vast world building and most importantly, a story centered around a nerdy, ordinary boy. The book follows protagonist Wade in a near future, roughly 2045, where the world is plagued with hunger, famine and climate change. To escape these harsh realities, people enter an augmented reality world known as the OASIS, where anyone can be anyone; regardless of their past status or background, individuals can make a new life for themselves, choosing where they work, how they live and what they eat. We learn that the founder of the OASIS has died and left behind a tournament in which gamers can search the OASIS for three keys that unlock three gates to find an easter egg.

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Crime and History: A Review of To Die But Once

Despite the proverb, I shamelessly judged To Die But Once, Jacqueline Winspear’s latest novel in her Maisie Dobbs British crime series, by the cover. With its ominous opaque figure front and center, surrounded by airplanes, and the catchy title, I was already hooked. As the fourteenth novel in the series, To Die But Once reads almost mechanically. It’s as if there is a formula to the prose and all Winspear has to do is fill in the plot. But the ease of the novel is not to be construed as pedestrian or uninspired.

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A Disconnect in The Feed

In a period often referred to as the “information age,” the notion of technological addiction is a fairly pervasive reality, and very much a hot topic of conversation. Written for an audience primed with various science-fiction films and novels about this idea, the expectations for The Feed, Nick Clark Windo’s debut novel, were high. With a title that overtly references the main aspect of popular social media: one’s facebook feed, twitter feed, instagram feed, etc., there was a sense of relevancy to the novel that was almost immediately debunked by the end of chapter one. The novel evoked commentary similar to that of Dave Eggers’s novel The Circle (2013) in an atmosphere of mass-death and suspect forces akin to Oryx and Crake (2003) by Margaret Atwood. However, the execution of The Feed lacked the subtlety and mind-warping prose that allowed for the success of its forebears.

A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold

Books You Should Read in March

1. A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy  

Author: Sue Klebold

Genre: Nonfiction

By Sue Klebold, the mother of Dylan Klebold, perpetrator of the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999, this moving memoir details how she came to terms with her son’s horrific actions, which have haunted her for the past eighteen years. Following the tragedy, Klebold continuously reexamined her role as a mother, her faith, and the possible causes and warning signs of her son’s behavior. In light of the recent school shooting in Florida, this book further highlights the urgent need for reevaluating mental health care and gun laws in this country.  

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JONES | A Long, Long Febegans Break

A few weeks ago, former Arts editor Troy Sherman ‘18 and I decided to ruin our February break. Instead of going on a trip with friends, catching up on sleep and work or just spending time thinking and relaxing, we chose to spend a good portion of the break in close quarters, reading pages and pages of near-nonsense. When others asked us what we planned to do over break, we’d respond, with a mix of self-conscious amusement and embarrassment, “We’re going to read Finnegans Wake aloud.”

Why? I’m not entirely sure, looking back, how the seed of this idea was first planted. I’m an avid fan of the Irish writer James Joyce, and I think at some point last semester I realized that if I didn’t read Finnegans Wake — his final and by far most difficult work — now, while I’m in college and have friends like Troy that will do ridiculous, simultaneously self-flagellating and self-indulgent things like this with me, then I might never read it.

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Discussing Death from Beyond the Grave: Denis Johnson’s Final Stories

 

Few authors can place their readers in wildly uncomfortable situations with unreliable characters and still leave them with a sense of poignancy like Denis Johnson. In his long-awaited collection of stories The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, Johnson weaves together five fairly disjunctive tales, all of which mimic the style of Jesus’s Son, one of his most accredited works. However, in his most recent book, published posthumously in January 2018, Johnson’s writing is slightly darker than his previous works. There’s something more resonant about the lessons these stories teach the reader, considering that they come from the grave. Perhaps Johnson describes the experience of reading his work best in the opening of “Strangler Bob” when he says, “you hop into a car, race off in no particular direction, and blam, hit a power pole.”

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is in many ways a follow-up to Jesus’s Son in that it shares some of the same characters, but more so in the way it evokes the same sort of humanizing tone to discuss recurring struggles in his stories.

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Multitudes of Identities in Multitudes of Stories: Emotional Empathy in Five-Carat Soul

In James McBride’s latest short story collection Five-Carat Soul, McBride tackles an era of history dominated by contentious social and racial dynamics through the a lens that humanizes the oppressed. Through each story, McBride reveals social truths about groups ranging from PhD students at Columbia University to war veterans to lower class African Americans in the wake of desegregation. Each story takes the reader through emotional, often heart-breaking encounters that demonstrate different pains of the human condition: love, trauma, injustice and acceptance, among others. Through his clear but poignant prose, McBride emulates the sort of rational and telling voices of historic authors whose literature exposed cultural norms, even if such norms were unflattering. His prose is didactic guised as charming, thus going beyond simply conveying the multiple personalities and experiences, but more broadly conveying an era of post-traumatic stress, whether it be racial, economic, political, or a hybrid of the three.