Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Seasonal Reads

Occasionally I've participated in the local library's "Let's Talk About It" program: The library provides on loan a series of books related to a single topic. I particularly enjoyed the "Madwomen in the Attic" series, which included (of course) Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys' clever The Wide Sargasso Sea. We also read Toni Morrison's Sula, Margaret Atwood's Surfacing, and one of my favorite short stories, "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Another series focused on the Civil War, including Doctorow's The March, Shaara's Killer Angels, and Gibbons's On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon.

Consequently, I find myself imagining other possible themes. Looking over the titles of books I have read recently, I realized I had the start of a good list for October, particularly Halloween. Without planning to do so, I've found that several books I've enjoyed lately have graveyard settings. I couldn't help thinking of others.

I could start with Audrey Niffenegger's latest novel Her Fearful Symmetry, set adjacent to and in the middle of London's famous Highgate Cemetery. I'd add Neil Gaimann's The Graveyard Book. Another favorite I discovered a year or so back is Ray Bradbury's From the Dust Returned, the story of a human foundling left in a basket on the porch of a not-quite-human family. I've always loved his Dandelion Wine, which a former student called the perfect book for summer. This less-famous novel has the same beautifully written blend of nostalgia and subtle fantasy, set in autumn.

Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights would be a perfect classic to add to the mix. I always considered Heathcliff's rant about the possibilities of being buried next to Cathy and digging over to her the perfect combination of romantic and creepy.

Post Script: Of course, I only have to hit "Publish Post" before all kinds of titles come to mind. I've picked up lots of other great recommendations as well. How could I forget poetry? I've actually used several of Kathryn Stripling Byer's poems during October: Her collections Wildwood Flower, Black Shawl, and Catching Light have some perfect selections for this time of year.

I've also been revisiting Clyde Edgerton's Floatplane Notebook, where the family graveyard works prominently in the plot. (What a lovely way to spend your time on the day before your wedding, cleaning the graveyard!)

I'm still waiting to hear more suggestions for readings with ghosts, witches and graveyards, which I will pass along.

1 comment:

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Ok, Nancy, here's some shameless self-promo--go to Wildwood Flower for All Hallows Eve, among others. These poems are, as another poet said, "witchy" and I don't mind some witchcraft in poetry. Black Shawl has some similar poems. Cold Spell in Catching Light---yes, indeed. Poetry does Halloween better than prose.......