Bookstagram hypnotizes me. Photos of pretty books, photos of pretty books and pretty tea cups, photos of pretty bookshelves, photos of manicured hands holding pretty books… Pretty feminine.
And so I decided to color-coordinate my TBR.
“You won’t. You’re not fun,” said my cousin. She is fun when she’s not in rehab. And she curates the library’s Instagram account.
“I am fun.”
“You took a picture of the books in the library dumpster.”
“That’s fun undercover reporting!”
I am not posting a fun pic of the perfectly fine set of Encyclopedia Britannica I found in the dumpster. You know why? Because I am fun.
I yanked some matching books off my shelves, but everything in my photo looks rumpled. Julie Berry’s Y.A. novel, Lovely War, and Japanese novelist Minae Mizumura’s The Fall of Language in the Age of English, a book about English language dominance, obviously belong together. The colors!
I bought Julie Berry’s Lovely War, because Entertainment Weekly described it as “a retelling of the Aeneid.” In the first 65 pages, there are references to Homer and Hesiod but none to Virgil. (Perhaps the reviewer got her poems mixed up.) But the gods pull the strings in human relationships: the goddess Aphrodite, caught in flagrante delicto with Ares and “bagged like a chicken” by her husband Hephasetus, explains she is the source of love but never in love. And she tells the story of bringing together three musicians and a soldier during World War I.
Minae Mizumura is the author of one of my favorite books, A True Novel, a brilliant Japanese retelling of Wuthering Heights. Fandom is why I bought The Fall of Language in the Age of English. So far I am mesmerized by the essay “Under the Blue Sky of Iowa,” which revolves around her month in Iowa City on some kind of International Writers’ Workshop fellowship. I know Iowa City well, so would be fascinated even if it weren’t for her description sof the other international authors. And many are writing in languages with few readers.
I found more matching books on my shelves: the 19th-century novel Eve’s Ransom by George Gissing, an olive green Dover, and the muted brown 40th-Anniversary edition of Joy Williams’s novel The Changeling.
The N.B. column in the TLS recommended Eve’s Ransom. And I love Joy Williams’s short stories. You can read an excerpt from Karen Russell’s introduction to Williams’ novel The Changeling in The New Yorker.
The Instagram folks are skillful photographers!