A lovely set of writings that draw inspiration from the natural world.

THE GARDEN

PERENNIAL REFLECTIONS ON BEGINNINGS AND ENDS

A collection of meditative essays centered on the practical and spiritual aspects of gardening.

Frode, the author of the short story collection Dreaming of Fish & Other Apocalyptic Stories of Foreboding and Grace (2018), among other works, assembles 56 short reflections inspired by his life and his love of gardening. Each chapter features small, full-color illustrations that include garden images. The mood for each essay is set by an opening quotation from a thinker and writer, such as Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi, Wendell Berry, W.S. Merwin, or Thich Nhat Hanh. The entries cover a wide range of topics, from the practical to the sublime, making the volume of interest to both seasoned and novice gardeners. Frode explores the myriad possibilities of the garden’s revolving seasons, which he describes as “metaphors for life and death.” His reflections are sometimes highly personal, giving the volume a memoirlike quality. The chapter “Hands” features a photo montage of the author’s own hands, front and back, and reflections of what they’ve handled over a lifetime, including model cars, a concrete Japanese lantern, and, of course, garden vegetables. In another essay, he pays tribute to friendships and lessons that he learned during his younger days at a Trappist monastery.However, the volume is most successful when the reflections consider universal themes, such as the wonders of the natural world; the meanings of longing, memory, and healing; and the notion that “Gardening is an exercise in beginnings and ends.” The chapters vary in form, from original poetry in “Garden Poems” to spiritual instructions in “How To Grow a Garden.” Although the author suggests that gardening is a form of prayer, the emphasis throughout his book is on contemplative practice rather than religious faith. The work’s meditative qualities, attractive design, and evocative, graceful prose make it a treat for well-read gardeners.

A lovely set of writings that draw inspiration from the natural world.

Pub Date: March 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-79483-116-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Lulu.com

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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