Tag Archives: experimental

Wisdom’s Kiss

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

My rating: 4 of 5

You might say that there were many different things–different people’s lives interacting–that ultimately contributed to the debacle that later became known as Wisdom’s Kiss. The Princess Wisdom (better known as Dizzy) herself, for one, what with her tendency to belie her name and throw herself headlong into drama and adventure. The Duke Roger whom she was to wed, as well, although he was truly a pawn in the hands of his overbearing and scheming mother. Then there was the dowager queen Benevolence, Dizzy’s grandmother, who with her far-too-intelligent cat Escoffier discovered the schemes of said Duchess. Less immediately obvious, yet equally influential, were the presence of Trudy, a young kitchen maid with second sight; Tips, her childhood sweetheart; Felis el Gato, Tips’ mentor and a grand performer; and the Emperor of the whole land himself. But it was the interweaving of these individual lives that allowed even the possibility of such an event, one that would shape the course of the land for generations to come.

I’ve enjoyed Murdock’s writing before in her story Princess BenWisdom’s Kiss actually ties in with this earlier novel, although it is certainly not necessary to read the one to enjoy the other. They’re more loosely connected tales rather than anything like a series. Wisdom’s Kiss is really fascinating in the way it’s written. You don’t really get any straight-up narrative, although the sections taken from Trudy’s memoirs read essentially like a regular novel. But for the most part, the story is told in letters and diary entries and, yes, even articles taken from an encyclopedia. It’s honestly enough to be a bit hard to piece together where the story is really going at times, although everything comes together nicely by the end. And I did enjoy the different perspectives and the way the different characters’ personalities came through from the different sources. It was interesting–and something I haven’t seen done much–to see the same character from multiple different perspectives, including their own; it gives a different appreciation for the individual. As for the writing style itself, I’ve heard the author’s writing described in the past as “frothy,” and I can’t honestly think of a better word to describe it. There’s a lightness and wit to it, even in the sections where things seem dark and awful–but in this particular story, there’s also a busyness and a constant activity from all sides that I might almost better compare to the fizz you get when you first open a soda. I think that this is one of those stories that would tend be polarizing; you would either love all the novelty and the different perspectives or it would drive you mad trying to keep up and make sense of it all. Personally, however, I enjoyed Wisdom’s Kiss and look forward to reading more by this author.

Note: It’s implied at the end of the story that this is a retelling of Puss in Boots . . . and I guess it sort of it, but I would never have caught it if it hadn’t been mentioned directly. For what that’s worth.

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Mix It Up!

Author/Illustrator: Hervé Tullet

My rating: 4 of 5

We are presented with a page, completely blank save for a solitary gray spot. Invited to tap said spot, we do and are presented with an explosion of spots of all colors. And now that we have colors to work with, we’re challenged to try combining them to see what happens when we mix it up.

Mix It Up! is certainly not the sort of picture book to which I am accustomed. It isn’t actually a story at all. I’m honestly at a loss as to how to even categorize it. It’s an interactive experience for kids presented in book format; that’s the best explanation I can come up with. A bit more complex that your usual “name the colors” book, Mix It Up! visually and experientially teaches kids color theory, what happens when you mix different colors, how to create shades and tints, that sort of thing. It’s all very vibrant and interactive–rather than didactically telling the reader what’s happening, it invites us to see and discern for ourselves. This book is great for kids that need a bit more interactivity as it asks them to tap, shake, squish, and tilt the pages as they go along; fortunately, the pages are actually sturdy enough to withstand this kind of abuse. As far as recommended age goes, I think Mix It Up! is best suited for a slightly older demographic than most picture books, although it could be pretty flexible. My two-and-a-half year-old niece enjoys the first half, but the latter parts where more inductive reasoning is required are a bit beyond her appreciation yet. I’d say around five would be the ideal age for this book, but it would depend on the kid. For any age, it’s a great introduction to color theory.

 

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The Strange Library

Author: Haruki Murakami

A boy wanders into the public library, randomly curious about taxation in the Ottoman Empire, for whatever reason. When he asks at the main circulation desk, he is sent (rather than to the normal stacks) to room 107, a lonely, distant room inhabited by a single elderly man. The man finds the boy’s books, but demands that he read them in the library, leading the boy down an even more deserted maze of corridors until the boy finds himself locked in a cell with the books. A man wearing a sheep-skin and a beautiful, enigmatic girl visit his cell, bringing food and warning him that as soon as he’s finished memorizing the books, the old man will eat his well-informed brain. The boy is desperate to escape–if only he hadn’t been so obliging to follow the man to start with!

I’ve been seeing Haruki Murakami’s name come up quite a bit recently, but I’d never read anything of his until I picked up The Strange Library at (gulp!) my own local library. I’m not quite sure how to put my impressions of it. Philosophical and odd, I suppose is the best way to express it. That, and experimental. The story itself is very strange, in a way that makes me think there are probably cultural, philosophical, and literary connections that I’m just missing. Mostly, to me, it was a fable saying “stop being so blasted Japanese and stand up for yourself!” or something like that; the boy in the story is really absurdly accommodating. The tone of the text itself is interesting–almost poetic, maybe? It’s rather brief, yet there’s an atmosphere to it that is more than you’d expect from the shortness of the style. Possibly one of the most unusual aspects of this volume is the rather experimental use of pictures and layout. Nearly every other page is some sort of picture–drawing or photograph–that in some way relates to the story, but not in clear way like a picture book or graphic novel. More like it’s helping to set the mood or something. Added to that, the cover has this odd wrap-around vertical sleeve that you have to open before you can get to the normal horizontally opening pages–this vertical wrap ended up dangling the whole time I was reading, getting in my way and generally being annoying. I think The Strange Library was an interesting reading experience, one that might be greatly enjoyed by those with a more philosophical taste, although if you’re more into action and clear-cut storytelling, this probably won’t be to your taste.

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