Discover more from MILLER’S BOOK REVIEW 📚
Bookish Diversions: Cure for What Ails
The Restorative Power of Poetry and Fiction, Inflation and Book Prices, Making Books, More
¶ Sounds good to me.
What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?
—Anthony Trollope, The Warden
¶ A verse for adversity. “Can reading poems relieve the physiological symptoms of stress and anxiety?” asks science writer Marissa Grunes. Yes, as a matter of fact. “A series of studies have shown that reading rhythmic poetry can increase both your resting [heart rate variability] and cardio-respiratory synchronization,” both of which are correlated with “mental health, well-being, and even long-term resilience to stressors and trauma.” So, if you’re feeling stressed, try dipping into a poem or two. Also, check out this video.
¶ Why read fiction? Because, according to philosopher Agnes Callard, it helps us process the ugly side of life: “hunger, fear, injury, pain, anxiety, injustice, loss, catastrophe, misunderstanding, failure, betrayal, cruelty, boredom, frustration, loneliness, despair, downfall, annihilation. . . . I can name many works of fiction in which barely anything good happens (Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, José Saramago’s Blindness, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Jon Fosse’s Melancholy are recent reads that spring to mind), but I can’t imagine a novel in which barely anything bad happens. Even children’s stories tend to be structured around mishaps and troubles.”
¶ The appeal of detective fiction provides an example of the truth behind Callard’s claim. Here’s Ralph Wood on P. D. James: “Nihilistic terrorism, pandemic disease, and unceasing war all make their appearance in James’s novels. Yet they are not the prime focus. In the face of such insuperable evils, she argues, we are drawn to detective fiction because it ensures a sense of personal justice. Even when social evils cannot be conquered, individual crimes can be both detected and requited.” Fiction provides interior means for managing the disorder of our exterior worlds.
¶ Teaching Hamlet to high schoolers: Why? “Hamlet has always been a vehicle for our existential vibrations, but the angst of my students has spiked.”
¶ Novel solution. In 2016 novelist Marianne Wiggins wrote herself a note about the incomplete final chapter of her book Properties of Thirst: “I haven’t been able to bring the language of this chapter up to my standards yet,” she said, “but I’ll get there.” Six months later she suffered and survived a massive stroke. But what about that unfinished story? Wiggins’ friend and editor David Ulin tells how he and Wiggins brought the book in for a landing a couple years after her setback.
¶ Everything costs more—except books? Seems so for now. “The price of books,” Axios reported in June, “has stayed the same despite supply chain woes and inflation.” That said, as the paper market continues to wobble and constrict, I’d expect to see prices go up as a result.
¶ What makes books collectible? Several factors influence the value of a book when it comes to dollars and cents: “firsts,” condition, age, craftsmanship, and provenance.
¶ The history of the paragraph. Yes, if you can believe it. We’ve explored these forgotten forests before, but here’s another adventure. Once upon a time, after all, there was no such thing as a paragraph. We can credit the Greeks for kicking things off, and where it went from there will surprise and delight. Wheaton College professor Richard Hughes Gibson offers a wide-ranging survey of the paragraph’s history with a modern-day payoff: “To recall the paragraph’s past lives is also to consider how previous generations have put their thoughts in order and to gain thereby a vantage to reconsider our own writing practices.”
¶ “Who ❋ needs words ✎ when you➰have symbols❓” That’s the question Elizabeth Goodspeed asks in this article for Eye on Design. “In-line images and symbols, reminiscent of old chain ⛓ letter 💌 text messages or everybody’s favorite ’90s font, Windings, are back and breaking into branding. The most common version of the trend, which we’re calling Nouveau Rebus, uses dingbats or emoji-like symbols sandwiched in between words, but rebus content can take the form of everything from geometric shapes to illustrated fruit stickers.” Rebuses—pictorial characters that stand for words and syllables—go back to the earliest days of writing.
¶ Making books.
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