We are more porous than we know

Dear Emily, Although centred around a murder, your debut novel Idaho (2017) does not revolve around the questions of who might have done it or why; yours is much more a book about atmosphere; a collection of first impressions and lost tracks, crossed through by the motif of loss. In the middle of summer, on…

Emily Ruskovich

Emily Ruskovich is an American writer. She graduated from the University of Montana and received an MA in English from the University of New Brunswick, Canada, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was the 2011–2012 James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her fiction has appeared in Zoetrope, One Story, and The…

Trespassing on one’s own ground

Dear Monica, The atmosphere in your novel Mariana (1940) feels like a bright surface tinted by an added layer of nostalgia, and a pervading sense of loss. Like a moss-covered surface, damp to the touch, but, for that very reason, very much alive. When the book opens, Mary Shannon is spending a weekend alone with…

Monica Dickens

Monica Enid Dickens (10 May 1915 – 25 December 1992) was an English writer. After being expelled from St Paul’s Girls’ School, in London, she went into domestic service, and worked as cook and general servant. She then worked as a nurse and in an aircraft factory. Later, she became a regular columnist for the local newspaper Hertfordshire Express and for the British…

The girl is a peasant warrior

Dear Xiaolu, Your book Nine Continents (2017, also published in the UK with the title Once Upon A Time in the East: A Story of Growing up) is less a memoir than a collection of your personal myths. And it is a book about the transformative nature of art; about art as a means to escape,…

Xiaolu Guo

Xiaolu Guo (simplified Chinese: 郭小橹; traditional Chinese: 郭小櫓; pinyin: Guō Xiǎolǔ, 1973) is a British-Chinese novelist and film-maker. She studied at the Beijing Film Academy, and moved to London in 2002. Books Once Upon A Time in the East: A Story of Growing up (memoir, 2017) Also published in the United States with the title Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China (2017) I am China (novel, 2014) Lovers…

A product of the interplay of traveled hearts

The Heart of a Woman The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn, As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on, Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home. The heart of a woman falls back with the night, And enters…

Georgia Douglas Johnson

Georgia Douglas Johnson (Georgia Blanche Douglas Camp Johnson, September 10, 1880 – May 14, 1966) was an African-American poet and playwright. She graduated from Atlanta University’s Normal School, and attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and the Cleveland College of Music. She wrote music from 1898 until 1959, and worked as assistant principal in a public school in Atlanta. In 1965,…

20 Books of Summer Wrap-Up & R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII

Hello, lovely readers, I am back from a three-week trip to Portugal and Brazil, and I can safely report that Summer has swiftly gone away here in Germany. I seem to be stepping in dry leaves everywhere. Meanwhile, I managed to read  25 fictional books this season (of which, alas, only 13 belong to my…

This moment of daybreak, and this singing back and forth

Dear Sarashina, I must confess that I have read your diary – and I did it twice. In my defense, I guess I could say that it is not exactly a diary, as we nowadays conceive of it; that it is highly imaginative rather than objective; and that it was meant to be a public…

Lady Sarashina

Sugawara no Takasue no Musume (菅原孝標女, also known as Takasue’s Daughter, c.1008 – after 1059) was a Japanese author known for her classic Heian period travel diary, the Sarashina Nikki. “Sugawara no Takasue no Musume” means daughter of Sugawara no Takasue. Her real name is unknown, so British scholar Ivan Morris, who translated her diary to English, referred to her as Lady Sarashina. Books…

It has a fascination of its own, that bend

Dear Lucy, At first, I felt skeptical about your novel Anne of Green Gables (1908). Anne seemed too chatty, too imaginative, too eager to please – too good to be true. Or perhaps I simply should have met her earlier, as a child of eleven, and on her own terms. But, gradually, so as it happened…