Don’t Cancel Your Summer Reading and Listening: Books that deserve some acclaim

Tempted to zone out on the beach and scroll through InstaFaceTwitTok? Step away from the phone and visit a different world…

The biggest danger of relaxing at the beach with a thick book used to be dozing off and getting bonked on the head by a heavy hardback. Now, with digital ebook readers and audiobooks, even that risk has been mitigated.

Buy them in our local bookstores. Get them from the library. Here are some of my readings and listening suggestions:

The Expanse Series (9 books plus bonus stories) by James S.A. Corey

Are you a fan of the TV show? Jim Holden is a peripheral character in a dead end job hauling ice in the asteroid belt, when he ends up in the middle of a deep space shooting war. After that, he and the crew of the Rocinante manage to get in the middle of just about everything that goes wrong inside (and outside) the solar system. 

The books are so much better than the TV series. Instead of frantically cutting from scene to scene, trying to both milk the drama and keep the story line intelligible, you’ll actually understand what’s going on. And Alex doesn’t die because the actor got canceled. Plus, if you’re a science geek, you’ll appreciate the plausible physics of space travel and battles. 

Be sure to check out the novellas that explain the origins of the near-light drive and all about Amos Burton. 

The Rivers of London Series (9 books plus comic books!) by Ben Aaronovitch, Narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

Peter Grant is a black police bobby in London on his first days on the job, who happens to meet a ghost. Mayhem ensues. I’ll be honest, Aaronovitch, who wrote a few things for a show called “Dr. Who,” has created an entire parallel world where magic is real, and London is a place you definitely want to hang out in. 

I don’t want to read these books. I just want to listen to them. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is the most amazing audiobook narrator on the planet. He breathes life with voice and accent into throwaway characters who appear in two paragraphs. 

But wait, there’s a bunch of side stories that happen in comic books… 

The Country Club Murders Series (13 books and audioboks) by Julie Mulhern, narrated by Callie Beaulieu

And now for something completely different. Ellison Russell is a Kansas City artist, born into a wealthy family and married to a real shithead. In the first book, Ellison accidentally swims into the corpse of one of her husband’s mistresses. She meets and (over the course of the next half dozen books) falls in love with police detective Anarchy Jones. Set in the 1970s, before cell phones and climate change, the series reminds us what roles women were forced to play not so long ago. The narration by CT narrator Callie Beaulieu is light and fun and completely engrossing.

The Entire Harry Potter Series (7 audiobooks) by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale

Ok, so she’s been partially canceled. Set it aside. Put in the earbuds and enjoy the story of The Boy Who Lived. Follow Harry Potter, Ron and Hermione from their first year through their epic final battle. Jim Dale manages to distinguish all the different voices in an epic and flawless performance.  Yes, it’s better than the movies. 

The Groston Rules by Mark Binder

Yeah, I’m going to plug my own book in the middle here. (Hopefully the editor will let it slide) (He did) What happens when your school gets shut down due to climate change and you’re bussed to another community? Seven high school seniors get into and out of trouble in this fun and funny work set in a pre-pandemic of historical fiction (2018, gasp!). The first novel serialized on Spotify, and the first novel to include a Bollywood-style dance number.

Termination Shock: A Novel by Neal Stephenson

I’ve been a fan of Neal Stephenson since his first cyberpunk novel, Snowcrash. Then he went into a whole period of Steampunk, and now he’s back to the near future. It’s neither a cheery nor optimistic book. Climate change is real. COVID-19 is endemic. Great men (and women) are trying to do something about it. The book is interesting largely as a how-to manual on how to build a sulfur launch system to mitigate climate change. If the peripheral characters had more to do it would have been better.

Mark Binder is a former editor of Motif and the author of more than two dozen books for all ages, including It Ate My Sister, Izzy Abrahmson’s Village Life Series and The Groston Rules.

Some Latent Linguistic Irreverence: Alta L. Price on language learning while printmaking

Image sources: Alta L. Price, World Editions

As an undergraduate arriving at Rhode Island School of Design in 1997, Alta L. Price was dead-set on studying German at “the school across the street” — Brown University. Growing up in New York’s Mohawk Valley, Price had fallen in love with the language rather by accident as a teenager after stopping by the village green to browse a used book sale raising funds for the local library. They left with New Directions 19, a 1966 anthology containing four poems by the German writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger translated into English, and an appetite whet by the realization that literature could live across languages. In PVD, Price received approval from both RISD and Brown to begin their first German classes. A requirement: climbing College Hill.

“The presence of German in my life is definitely like a bizarre childhood dream that just insisted on surfacing in strange ways no matter where I was or am,” said Price.

At RISD, an initial interest in drawing shifted toward printmaking, following a taste of lithography with Andrew Raftery and an introduction to the intaglio technique led by visiting professor Carol Wax. They wandered the RISD Museum and lingered in the campus library amidst the sights, sounds and smells of half a million prints and clippings held in the Picture Collection.

Although Price hoped to study abroad in Mainz, Germany — home to the Gutenberg Museum — departmental requirements limited the option. Instead, they followed the advice of a drawing instructor, Tom Mills, to set sight on a junior-year honors program in Rome. In preparation, Price said PVD became “my own personal Babel.” They juggled German at Brown, Italian at RISD, and “a welcome respite from all language” in the studio. While studying in Italy, Price met an international network of German-speaking artists at a conference and exhibition in Tuscany.

Adept in both German and Italian upon returning to RI, Price found the art of translation across their studies, from philosophy to handmade paper and writing systems to the literature of the Bible. During a class in graphic design, Price discovered the professor John Hegnauer alternated the course title between an introduction to the hand-carved letter and an introduction to the hand-drawn letter. The fluidity and variability of that naming, said Price, “might have spoken to some latent linguistic irreverence lurking within me.”

From PVD, Price moved to the outskirts of Washington, D.C. for their first job after graduation, at an art center in Riverdale, Maryland. An interest in reconnecting with fellow RISD alums later brought them to New York. During nearly two decades in Long Island City, Queens, they worked in publishing and earned an MFA at Hunter College. Price now resides in Chicago.

As well as papermaking and printmaking, Price runs a consultancy specializing in literary translation. Their works range from artistic resources Alfa-Beta: The Study and Design of Type and The Book Cover in the Weimar Republic to narratives like Alexander Kluge’s montage Anyone Who Utters a Consoling Word is a Traitor and Anna Goldenberg’s family memoir of Jewish exile and return, I Belong to Vienna. PEN America named Price as one of five finalists for its 2022 PEN Translation Prize for their translation of New Year by Juli Zeh from German.

“Radfahren ist pure Entspannung,” Price construes as “Cycling is pure relaxation” in New Year’s opening. Like many of Price’s experiences, the pages resurface a memory of PVD. During Price’s senior year, they were bicycling when a pre-med student opened a car door directly into their path. A helmet protected their head from the pavement. More than two decades passed, until 2021, before Price rode a bike again. In New Year, they continue as the protagonist “shifts gears, pushes down harder on the pedals, and forces himself to keep breathing calmly.”

“I am only a translator today,” said Price, “thanks to a string of serendipitous events during my years in RI and the ongoing support of folks I met there, at both RISD and Brown. ”

Alta L. Price’s translation of Juli Zeh’s novel New Year was published in 2021 by World Editions.

At Home in the In-Between: Julia Sanches on migration and movement

Julia Sanches and Mariana Oliver’s Migratory Birds.

In 2017, a podcast from Letras Libras, a literary magazine published in Mexico and Spain, aired the essay “Aves Migratorias” contemplating the journeys of Bill Lishman. In his homemade aircraft, the artist and aviator featured in the film Fly Away Home settled into a self-propelled seat in the sky to lead a migration of Canadian geese. New to Newport and scouting potential projects for translation, Julia Sanches listened to the segment in her apartment, enrapt as the author Mariana Oliver read her work: “Algunas veces, de manera inesperada, es posible anticipar fragmentos del futuro en un momento.” Sanches heard how the words might sound taking flight in another form: “Sometimes, out of the blue, you catch a glimpse of the future.”

Born in São Paulo, Sanches moved to Manhattan when she was three months old on account of her father’s employment with a multinational corporation. From their apartment west of Central Park, Sanches’ mother walked with her through the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She babbled with strangers on the city’s public transit, and often returned to the family’s rental unit having lost a shoe during her day’s outings. Her parents’ social circle centered around other Brazilians, and they returned to Brazil annually to visit family.

When Sanches’ family moved to the suburbs of New Jersey, followed by New York’s Hudson Valley, her mother hesitated to welcome friends into their house. She heard Americans were litigious, and also worried she might serve her guests the wrong meal. When Sanches traveled to Brazil, her cousins called her “gringa” — foreigner. She would fall silent their first week back, then engage fluently in Portuguese. The inverse happened in Englsh upon returning to the U.S.

When Sanches was eight, her family moved to Mexico City, where they lived for five years. The summer before September 11, 2001, they returned to New York’s Hudson Valley for “some consistency,” her parents said. After several months Sanches recalled as “not a fun time to be a foreigner in America,” her family relocated to Switzerland where she spent her teenage years.

“I hadn’t stepped foot in Europe,” said Sanches. “I may have even confused it with Sweden for a while.”

In high school, Sanches added French and Italian to her knowledge of English, Portuguese, and Spanish. After undergraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, she pursued a master’s degree in literature and translation at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona where she picked up Catalan, the primary language of Catalonia, an autonomous community in Spain. As the country struggled with a years-long economic crisis, Sanches read young adult book manuscripts in English for a publishing house and wrote “reader’s reports” in Spanish for their eventual publication in Catalan. She then tried her lot with the publishing industry in New York. Moving to Brooklyn, Sanches stepped into a role as an assistant at the Wylie literary agency.

Sanches hadn’t stepped foot in Rhode Island before she and her partner moved to Newport in 2017 when he accepted a role as an art conservator for a regional nonprofit. They found a more welcoming community in PVD, buoyed by the comfort of living in a city where nearly 44% of the population traces family origins to Central and South America. While focusing primarily on her literary translations, Sanches worked part-time at Riffraff, a bookstore and bar in Olneyville.

After her introduction to Mariana Oliver’s writing through the Letras Libras podcast, Sanches tracked down her manuscript published by the Mexican Ministry of Culture as part of a project developed to support the country’s writers 35 years old and younger. Several U.S. literary journals turned down Sanches’ initial translation of the opening essay on Lishman’s aerial feat, but a friend and fellow translator Charlotte Whittle, who completed her master’s degree at Brown University, commissioned Sanches to translate another of Oliver’s essays for the online magazine Words Without Borders for an edition on the theme of “wandering and isolation.”

In Oakland, California, co-founder of independent publisher Transit Books Adam Levy read Sanches’ translation in Words Without Borders. Levy and Sanches had overlapped briefly at the Wylie Agency, and he reached out to commission a complete translation of Oliver’s work. Throughout the process, Sanches and Oliver messaged almost daily on WhatsApp around editorial nuance. In one case, Sanches grappled with an excerpt where Oliver intentionally used Spanish words derived from Arabic origins like aceituna and naranja. Because the English equivalents of olive and orange stemmed from non-Arabic roots, she opted for apricot and tangerine instead. Oliver asked Sanches to leave a voice message reading the copy aloud, so she could compare the cadence of the language. In 2021, Transit published Migratory Birds

On March 4, PEN America awarded Sanches its annual PEN Translation Prize for her rendering of Oliver’s work. The judges wrote: “Migration is as natural to humans as to so many species of birds, but we have never before read such a light yet profound illustration of this principle as in Migratory Birds, brought to new audiences in Sanches’ outstanding translation.”

As the announcement took place at a ceremony in New York, Sanches was fast asleep late at night in Barcelona on a residency program in preparation for translating the 1977 novel El temps de les cireres by Montserrat Roig. Oliver live streamed the awards in Mexico, sending videos and messages of her celebration to Sanches as digital packets in flight across the Atlantic.

“It’s possible that the reason I was so drawn to this book has to do with its expansive geography, and its mirroring of my own experience of the world, in a way,” said Sanches.

“There is no place more like home for me than spaces of multiplicity and in-betweenness.”

Julia Sanches’ translation of Mariana Oliver’s essay collection Migratory Birds was published by Transit Books.

The Power Wielded by Writers: Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on the fight for freedom of expression

After boarding a bus in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad for a day trip to the ancient archeological site of Taxila with the nonprofit International Center for Journalists in 2013, I fell into easy conversation with my seatmate. A former member of the Brown University Board of Trustees, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman had long served on the boards of arts, journalism, and human rights organizations. As we trundled past colorful patterns and calligraphic adornments on cargo trucks likewise journeying along the national highway lined with jacaranda and cedar trees, Leedom-Ackerman reminisced about her own history advocating for freedom of expression.

As a vice president emeritus of PEN International, who previously chaired the organization’s committee for writers imprisoned around the world, she recalled certain high-profile campaigns: supporting Salman Rushdie in the wake of the 1989 fatwa calling for his death, defending Orhan Pamuk against criminal charges after referring to the Armenian genocide, and calling for justice following the assassination of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. In a new memoir, PEN Journeys: Memoir of Literature on the Line, published by the British poetry house Shearsman Books, Leedom-Ackerman sets these chilling attempts to suppress literary and media freedoms alongside the inner-workings of PEN’s branches in more than 100 countries.

During a virtual event hosted by the International Center for Journalists to celebrate Leedom-Ackerman’s book release, the author Salil Tripathi referenced the murder of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl in Pakistan twenty years ago as a horrifying turning point in the curtailment of free expression through an escalated and targeted use of violence. But beyond foreign correspondents, the writers most often confronting threats to their lives and livelihoods locally in Pakistan are those writing for their audience in Punjabi, Pashto, Urdu and other regional languages. The same holds true around the world, from the ongoing detention of poets and novelists, to harassment and sexual violence against women writers in particular.

PEN Journeys reinforces the sobering reminder that for every story of successful advocacy, there are far more failures — and all the more reason to share their words, in both the original and in translation. As for the power still wielded by writers imprisoned, in exile, in need of refuge, or otherwise at risk, Leedom-Ackerman summons the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam:

You took away all the oceans and all the room.

You gave me my shoe-size with bars around it.

Where did it get you? Nowhere.

You left me my lips, and they shape words, even in silence.

Joanne Leedom-Ackerman’s memoir PEN Journeys: Memoir of Literature on the Line was published in 2022 by Shearsman Books.

Sleighing Christmas Stereotypes: Dear Santa Book Review

Dear Santa compiles five stories that are told through poetic letter writing between Santa and various characters that took the time to initiate a written correspondence with him. All of the characters have different reasons for writing to him, all based around what he can’t/should/shouldn’t do for them leading up to and including Christmas Eve. Santa takes the time to respond to everyone, most of the time offering up quips of advice to help them be better versions of themselves.

Santa confers with five different characters in these letter writing campaigns. While three (the Kid, the Candyman and Dewey Jackson) talk with Santa about what they specifically would or would not like, the elves and mall Santas have a representative lobbying for help on the group’s behalf. Santa tries to see the best in everyone, but his patience quickly runs thin, leading him to go as far as threatening some of those who wrote to him. Most of the people writing are motivated by greed, which leads St. Nick to try and negotiate with them while hoping they see the errors in their thinking. 

In the first story a demanding kid attempts to bully Santa into delivering every present on their list. The second story is about Santa reaching out to his elves about working conditions, which turns into a correspondence with a “narc” elf. In the third story a child writes about their dream of selling candy at baseball games. Santa suggests bringing a potato gun and using it to shoot candy to willing participants. The fourth story is about a mall Santa trying to advocate for better conditions for all of the other mall Santas. The final story pits Santa in a battle against Dewey Jackson, an entitled cat.

The book is at its best when highlighting the flaws that people have, including Santa. In a season where everyone is supposed to be thinking about others and presenting their best selves, every character has a sense of selfishness to them. No one is willing to see the other’s side, an awkward but authentic look into some real world personalities. Dear Santa shows that everyone, at times, lets their emotions get the best of them, which leads to questionable decisions. There’s not a clear resolution to any of the stories, as they end with Santa letting them know the plan on Christmas Day (for better or worse). It’s up to the reader to creatively determine how successful these plans turned out to be. This adds an element of fun to the book.

Author Jeff Zurowski presents 50 easy-to-read poems that tell these five stories. Although clearly a book that is meant to be read during the Christmas season, Dear Santa offers more than just an easy read to put you in the holiday spirit. It shows the imperfections of human (this includes elves, cats and whatever Santa considers himself) behavior. This book has a dual purpose: Read for enjoyment, followed by reading it with a child to discuss what each character might have done differently. 

Dear Santa Santa vs. The Kid (and other problems) can be purchased here: https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/jeff-zurowski/dear-santa-santa-vs-the-kid/paperback/product-1y5ygvkz.html?page=1&pageSize=4.

Concrete and Cardinals

Scott Turner’s brief articles in The Providence Journal always provided welcome glimpses of natural landscapes. Beauty in the Street – Nature Tales from the Neighborhood collects many of these, as well as other reminiscences of Turner’s life and its intersections with the natural world in Rhode Island, Seekonk, and the Bronx. It’s not a book that you’ll read cover to cover. Instead enjoy a snippet here and there; the timeline is fragmented. One piece titled, “Sitting with Several Species of Butterfly,” dated 2012, begins, “On a sunny Sunday afternoon in summer, I lazed on a lounge chair in the shade of a red maple…” The next piece is three years later in Seekonk, finding Turner standing “in amazement before a dolphin, which surfaced less than 10 feet away, exhaling in a loud, sighing hiss from its blowhole.” This is a collection of essays to dip into on a cold day, or when it’s raining outside, or when you need a smile to connect you with birds and the water, the air and the wind. Beauty in the Street – Nature Tales from the Neighborhood by Scott Turner, available on Amazon and at Stillwater Books.

Where the Benny’s Used To Be: A Rhode Island Pictorial History Series

Rhode Island Memories is a three volume coffee table book published by The Providence Journal that serves as a pictorial history of this state. With photos beginning in the late 1800s and proceeding through the end of the 20th century, this book archives the many transformations Rhode Island has gone through. Featuring photographs from award-winning and nationally recognized photographers, historical societies (both regional and national) and family pictures, this collection is an authentic representation of this state and its inhabitants. 

Volume I: The Early Years — A Pictorial History has photographs from the 1850s through the end of the 1930s, with a focus on the Hurricane of 1938. Take the time to look at each picture, and you will see how the state was built or rebuilt after natural disasters. It’s fun to see which buildings are still here today and which businesses have come and gone. Of course, transportation changed drastically, from horse-drawn carriages and boats to trains and  automobiles. Paging through this book is like looking through a time capsule from a long forgotten era. This is the standout of the three books. It’s a history not often seen.

Volume II: The 1940s & 1950s shows Rhode Island modernizing itself in the post World War 2 period. While there is less focus on infrastructure, the emergence of cars in society is well documented. This book showcases the fun people had during those times. There were a lot of sports, concerts and community events that took place. A surprising number of national politicians visited and campaigned in the state, which seems odd in today’s world where a Presidential visit in Rhode Island is nearly unheard of (and somewhat of a traffic nuisance when it happens).

Volume III: From Turmoil to the Providence Renaissance: The 1960s Through the 1990s shows a time that is less interesting, because it has already been well documented. This book has everything expected from that time period: the Kennedys, Salty Brine, the longest baseball game ever, Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals, the Blizzard of ’78 and the building of the Providence Place Mall. It does well highlighting pictures of events younger people have only heard about.

Each book begins with a letter from former Providence Journal Executive Editor Alan Rosenberg and an introduction from Director of Photography & Graphics Michael Delaney. Chapters each have a brief introduction, and every picture features a brief but detailed description, along with the date (or year) it was taken. 

Interestingly,  the photographs are printed in black and white until the 1990s chapter. The business profile of the Providence Journal reports that they didn’t start publishing color photographs until 1987, when they opened  a new printing plant and switched to a process called flexography. While this is logical, and it would have been difficult to color over 100 years of photographs, colors would have added to the experience of Rhode Island’s history. 

I had fun paging through the visual history of the State of Rhode Island. The many structural changes are interesting, but the pictures of people are  truly wonderful to view. Rhode Islanders’ interests haven’t changed all that much in over a hundred years, whether it be shopping, sightseeing, enjoying nature, working or helping out their community. While the environment and styles are drastically different from year to year, the expressions, joy and camaraderie of the individuals pictured are engagingly familiar.  

You can purchase Rhode Island Memories Vol. I, II, and III through the publisher at pediment.com. 

Friars’ Blast in The Past: A review of “Homegrown” by Paul Lonardo

Paul Lonardo’s book “Homegrown” sheds light on the Providence Friars’ 1972-73 men’s basketball season, possibly the most magical season in Rhode Island sports history. “Homegrown” serves as an introduction to not only the 1972-73 PC Friars, but also a history of Providence College basketball, and the state of Rhode Island in the 1970s.

“Homegrown” begins with the early history of PC basketball, which touches on regional NBA draft rules that were fascinating, but hard to picture. The backstory introduces one of Rhode Island’s most important sports figure, Dave Gavitt. Lonardo uses the next few chapters to introduce and give some background on the Friar’s’ “Big 3” of that season (long before “Big 3” was a common term): Ernie DiGregorio, Marvin Barnes and Kevin Stacom. The story mostly focuses on DiGregorio, the star of the team, but Lonardo gives all of the players that played their due.

DiGregorio met Barnes while Barnes was still in high school, and Lonardo follows them through the disappointing 71-72 season, which was the first they played together as teammates. Both their bond and their talents became stronger under the teachings of Gavitt. Both are painted as determined players who don’t like to lose.

“Homegrown” is a quick and easy read, written like an extended newspaper article. The story is riveting, but it seemed like Lonardo pieced the information together through articles and online research instead of contacting the individual players, coaches, students, city workers, and fans for direct quotes and more inside stories. Pictures would have added a tremendous amount of depth to the story. Lonardo’s descriptions only go so far, as I found myself yearning to see some photographs of the individuals, game action and the state of Rhode Island itself (especially before the “Civic Center” was built), but was left having to use my imagination.

Information about Paul Lonardo can be found here: https://www.thegoblinpitcher.com/index.htm

WALKING ALONE: an interview with artist Stephen Gervais

Before Netflix, illustrator Stephen Gervais gave a fresh look to Shirley Jackson’s furiously frightful novel The Haunting of Hill House. Stephen has captured in graphite the walls that continued to stand upright, the floors that remained firm, every door sensibly shut, and not to disturb the silence that lies steadily against the wood, but most importantly care for that which walks alone.

TED DILUCIA (Motif): After all these years, with the keys to Hill House, finally able to illustrate the book, I’m sure you had scenes from the novel banging on the door of your brain, dying to be translated to paper… How did you choose what scenes to portray? Any regrets?

STEPHEN GERVAIS: (Pours kettle) There are so many moments in the narrative deserving attention, and pursuing the creepiest of those, ones that cause small hairs on the back of the readers’ neck to rise is always gratifying. Creating art that challenges and provokes such a visceral response in the reader is sort of controlled power-tripping, which can be very fun. Now… how’s about another cup of tea?

TD: Thank you. Illustrating something you have wanted to for so long, were there late nights spent agonizing over getting it right, overcoming self-doubt?

Stephen Gervais

SG: Not so much agonizing in the dark, in the night, as it was turning things over and over in my mind. I’m a light sleeper, and sometimes I’ll jot down ideas as they occur, then I’ll try to make sense of it all in the morning.

TD: Were there any earlier attempts of what you envisioned Hill House to be before the house finally opened its gates to you?

SG: I began to brainstorm and worked up comprehensives for the project. Two years ago, Paul Suntup of Suntup Press, contacted me about selling prints of the cover to Christine, by Stephen King, that I had completed back in 1983. We discussed a limited edition. Thankfully he successful. So, I started to work on the first illustrated edition of Hill House ever printed! 

(soft thumping)

TD: (pats sweat from forehead, regains focus) I hate this question, the ‘what inspires you?’ question, so I’ll ask it this way, what are you thinking while illustrating?

SG: It’s the writing, the storytelling itself. I feel very lucky that a project like this provides a stage upon which I can share my talent. Plus, it’s always fun to creep people out with the drawings! Hopefully it works to amplify the poignant creepiness of the narrative.

(a distant crash)

TD: (to the sound) Yes… the creepiness…but tell me, when designing, there is a set of rules that illustrators make or take upon themselves. I call it, “you can’t cheat the lace,” the details are the details. Hill House provides certain details that cannot be cheated. Do you try to capture every turret, every doorknocker described, or are there liberties the illustrator takes?

SG: Gotta have some fun, gotta push the envelope! The details are in the details, but I feel it’s always worth going that extra mile.

DILUCIA: (reverts to the stars at the bottom of teacup) There is an immense responsibility that rests upon the shoulders of an illustrator. How do you wrestle with Shirley’s vision and your own? Is there a common ground?

GERVAIS: If I got into a wrestling match with Shirley, she’d be able to take me down. Knowing that I’m illustrating a much-loved novel, I framed my own awareness of the situation. The setting she chose for Hill House serendipitously allowed our aesthetic senses to overlap nicely. There was no wrestling… more of slow dance with Shirley.

TD: (gulps) H-h-how close can we get to a definitive look? Knowing we cannot sit with Shirley and ask her about what she was intending?

SG: I like to think that Ms. Jackson would have appreciated my visual realizations, but alas, we’ll never know. Maybe a séance could be arranged to contact her, get her opinion as such, with the edition in trembling hand.

TD: We’ll leave the answers of yes or no to the living if you don’t mind… we’re doing fine without crystal balls and Ouija boards, just fine.

SG: Calm yourself Ted… don’t want to dredge out the smelling salts. It’s going to be alright…

 (closer thumping)

TD: (teacup rattling in hand) H-H-Hill House can be a comfortable place if one is willing to be at the mercy of its… haunts. I see the house letting you venture off to a nanny a devil- baby on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, or being called to exorcise a possessed teen in Georgetown, escort an unfortunate outcast to the prom… What’s next Stephen, where do you walk?

SG: (leans back deeper into the sofa) Well, I’ve always felt quite comfortable here at Hill House, but I am ready to move on. Hint-hint, a limited edition of The Exorcist by Blatty, (speaking of the devil!) With all that said… I set dinner on the dining-room sideboard at six sharp, I take it you can serve yourself properly after your hands have stopped trembling…

I am here now, where the house stands against its hills. Stephen now embraces the darkness. When everyone’s gone, Hill House will still be here, waiting for its next caretaker to mind the walls that continue upright, bricks that meet nicely, floors remaining firm, and every door is sensibly shut, not to disturb the silence that lies steadily against the wood and stone of this place. Perhaps, just maybe, that person is me, maybe someone else… something that walks alone

Out this September: Looking for some new entertainment? Look no further!

Motif contributor Katarina Dulude rounded up her top picks for entertainment this September, including a few local selections. 

September 2: If spooky season can’t come soon enough for you, check out What We Do in the Shadows, which will be returning for its third season on September 2. This horror comedy mockumentary was created by Jemaine Clement and produced by Taika Waititi, who is perhaps best known for directing Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. The show is based on the creators’ earlier film of the same name and tells the story of four vampire roommates and their familiar living in modern times in Staten Island. Its third season will be available on September 2 on FX and Hulu. It’s worth taking a bite out of this incredibly hilarious and absurdly fun show.

September 3: The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and Loki and follows Shang-Chi, a skilled martial artist, who is drawn back into The Ten Rings, a shady organization, to confront the past he left behind. Director Daniel Cretton described the film as both funny and “a cross between a classic kung fu film and a family drama.” The film will receive a 45-day theatrical release.

September 9-17: Looking for a live performance? The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins by Haus of Glitter will be presented outdoors through the Wilbury Theatre Group at the former home of Esek Hopkins. The activist dance opera is described by co-directors Anthony Andrade, Assitan Coulibaly, ​Steven Choummalaithong, Matt Garza and Trent Lee as “a story of mermaids, revolution and resilience [that] exposes how our BIPOC lineages intersect with Hopkins’ legacy of white supremacy.” Tickets are available here.

September 14: For those who enjoy a good romance, Farah Naz Rishi’s It All Comes Back to You will be released midway through September. The contemporary romance book centers around teens Kiran and Deen. Kiran doesn’t know what to make of her sister’s new quickly moving relationship. Deen is thrilled his brother has found a girlfriend so that the attention can shift off of him for a while. However, when Deen and Kiran come face to face, they agree to keep their past a secret. Four years prior they dated until Deen ghosted Kiran without an explanation. Now, Kiran is determined to find out why and Deen is equally determined to make sure she never finds out. 

September 17: Netflix’s hit British dramedy series Sex Education makes its return this September. For those who haven’t seen the series, it begins with Otis, the teenage son of a sex therapist, who discovers that despite his own inexperience, he is adept at giving sex advice to others. With his best friend and crush, he turns this into a business. The series explores the emotional (and sexual) likes of teens in a way that is funny, awkward and incredibly heartfelt. Much of the third series has been kept under wraps, but it’s clear that a new headmistress will be changing things up at the teens’ school, for better or worse.

September 21: Inspired by the story of Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history, the book Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao will be released this month. Described as Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale, the sci-fi reimaging follows Wu Zetian, who seeks vengeance for her sister’s death at the hands of an intensely patriarchal military system that pairs boys and girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots used to battle mecha aliens. While boys are revered, girls must serve as their concubines and often die from the mental strain. When Zetian gets her vengeance on the boy responsible for her sister’s death and emerges unscathed, it is discovered that she is an Iron Widow, a special type of female pilot, much-feared and much-silenced. She is paired with the strongest and most controversial male pilot in an attempt to tame her, but after getting a taste for power, Zetian will not give it up.

September 30-October 24: Opening their 37th season, A Lie Agreed Upon will be premiering at The Gamm Theatre on the last day of September. This play, written and directed by Tony Estrella, modernizes Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. “Inconvenient truths fight alternative facts, minority rights battle majority rule, and individual conscience clashes with economic interest in this powerful reinvention of Ibsen’s masterpiece.” More information is available here.