By Leslie Lindsay
Home. It’s a place we go back to again and again. And it’s always open.
~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS|SPECIAL EDITION~
As I write this, on a blistering day, one in which the sky burns blue and the walls provide structure and stability, I am shaken. The events of the last several months have been enough to stun and awaken. The last few days have ripped the floor from under me, taken my breath away. My children have opened delicate conversations seeking solace and understanding. Social media is revealing a surge of activity in movements and messages. In the global world, protests are happening. You know this. I’m not sure I can possibly say anything that hasn’t already been said.
Do I share another author interview? Normalcy, escape, reliability, there’s a value in that, right?
But the world is hurting. When we hurt, we seek comfort. For many of us, that is home.
In my town, the curfew for all individuals has been extended another night. We all must be tucked safely in our homes by 8:30pm. There are Interstate closures and check-points. We’re just barely in Phase 3 of our state reopening and I thought we had turned a corner. My daughter was expected to be at soccer training (9 players + coach, no contact, no scrimmage, but camaraderie), and no, that has been canceled out of abundant safety for our players. Our school’s planned temporary opening for students to collect their belongings, receive their yearbook, bring a sense of closure to this abbreviated school year, also postponed. Target stores are closing early to defray potential vandalism, to keep patrons and employees safe. This is not right.
Here’s what is: books. Stories.
It’s not the answer, I get that.
Today, I am sharing two exquisitely creative and brilliant minds, that of Helen Phillips and the late children’s author and illustrator, Virginia Lee Burton:
THE LITTLE HOUSE
AND YET THEY WERE HAPPY
Let these titles soothe over. It’s a surreal world out there. While these titles evoke wholesomeness, nostalgia, they are actually brimming with disaster, destruction, transformation, but also, wonder and delight.
More than seventy-five years ago, in 1942, Virginia Lee Burton ‘built’ the THE LITTLE HOUSE, far away in the country. Since then, changes happened. Slowly, the world changed. No longer sitting alone on a bucolic parcel of land, the little house soon had a small road nearby, and then another little house came. And still another. Snow and children and automobiles came. And then more houses. A neighborhood. A city. A train. It keeps expanding. The little house is shrouded in skyscrapers and soot, bustling people; it gets neglected, boarded up. The house is sad. And then, finally, one day, someone comes by. She shows it some care and concern. Oh–could this be her grandmother’s home? Yes, yes it is. She moves that house. She puts it back in the country, an new untouched parcel of land. She paints it and fixes it up. If you notice carefully, you will see that on every page, the little house sits in the same position. It never moves on the page–it stays in one place; everything moves around it. No word, no design, no element is out of place. There’s stability there, an aching voice of an artist that seems to be saying, “Look–art must remain in this chaotic world.” While this is a children’s book, I urge adults and parents to take a new look. It’s truly a tale for everyone.
What Helen Phillips does with AND YET THEY WERE HAPPY (Leapfrog Press, 2011), is equally brilliant. A world haunted by disasters and discord, verging maybe on apocalypse; it’s a bold statement of linked fables about a young couple falling in love and weathering storms, fights, mistakes; they create a family, but worry. It’s raw, it’s lyrical, it’s imaginative, and also evokes a myth-like worldview. Each story is a hybrid of prose and poetry, vignettes of miniature moments, all colliding into a remarkable, thought-provoking whole. I think it absolutely epitomizes the era, the current situation, and I at once fell in love with it, found the stories oozing through my mind like a watery dream. I think, quite possibly, we are living in a Helen Phillips’ novel right now. But look, too, at the pleasure and the resilience this collection brings. We can find comfort and familiarity in the bizarre.
“Haunted and lyrical and edible all at once: these stories feel as natural and strange as if they were found inscribed on the inside of a nutshell.”
For more information, on these titles or authors, please see:
ABOUT YOUR HOST:
Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead Chapel, Common Ground Review, Cleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The Waking, Brave Voices Literary Magazine, Manifest-Station, and others. Cover art on Up the Staircase Quarterly, other images in Another Chicago Magazine (AJM), poetry in The Coffin Bell Journal, and CNF in Semicolon Literary Journal. Leslie has been awarded as one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.
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[AYTWH trailer by Adam Douglas Thompson and retrieved from H. Phillips’ website 6.2.20. Artistic images of book covers designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay #alwayswithabook for more like this].