A couple of years ago I ordered a book by Jen Hadfield on the strength of a vividly disgusting couplet I came across somewhere or other: “Under the broiler / turned sausages ejaculate.” (That’s turned as in forgotten and rotting—Hadfield’s idiom is Scottish, as are her eye and ear.) The book was strong, but Byssus (Picador), her new collection, is even stronger.
Two months ago my wife and I walked downtown to see Mr. Holmes, with Sir Ian McKellen playing an aging version of the science-conquers-superstition Sherlock Holmes. I found myself crying in the dark as McKellen’s trembling, frail Sherlock struggled in his final years to solve one final mystery: why a woman he almost loved took her own life.
When you read children’s literature you expect to smile at the quirky characters fumbling to figure out their growing independence. You might expect to cry as you watch characters face the pain of growing up.
You don’t expect to be confronted by current events like a refugee crisis—and inspired to imagine the kind of society we could be even in the face of terror and fear.
I recommend Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Mothers, Tell Your Daughters (Norton), a selection of short stories about mostly hardscrabble, down-market women in southwestern lower Michigan. Campbell makes fiction look easy.
A growing body of research indicates that diversity in the classroom contributes to childhood development. Kids who make friends with kids from other races in school are better able to handle diversity and their academic performance is improved, according to a study done at New York University. Without assistance from teachers, however, the tendency over time is for same-race relations to increase and cross-race relations to decrease (NPR, July 12).