This installment: wiggy wisdom from Ram Dass, in the ear; an intense French novel; another dark Scandinavian mystery; and Millet's dream-like novel.
Ram Dass Audio Collection by Ram Dass
This is another that fell into my hands by some grand, mysterious design (I think) and really spoke to me. He was once Richard Alpert, a psychologist at Harvard, but in the '60s scientific experiments with psychedelics swerved his path into mysticism and ecstasy. This compilation of talks addresses aging, service, and compassion. He's a great storyteller, jokester (i.e. "chutzpah...that's Sanskrit for..."), and philosopher. I loved being in his company, though the guided meditations weren't practical in the car. Sometimes the material repeats, but it's all good.
Infrared by Nancy Huston
An intense French novel in which Rena, a photographer, is on holiday with aging father and stepmother in Tuscany. Meanwhile back in Paris immigrant riots are heating up and her young Arab journalist husband (her 4th) pleads with her to return. "Infrared" refers to the developing technique she uses to convey otherwise unseen images. Dark childhood experiences drive her sexually and those are gradually revealed. The travels are arduous and often tedious, with geriatric complaints and Renaissance art vying for attention. A surprise ending, though we get hints. Rena's a complex, driven character whom I didn't exactly warm up to, but I found the story fascinating despitel
Invisible Murder by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis
Nurse Nina in Denmark has connections with a movement to shield refugees on the run. Denizens of a Roma encampment in an abandoned warehouse come down with horrible symptoms. Her husband's out of town and asks her to stay out of it while he's gone; they have two children. (Ida, the teenager, is going through a ghastly rebellious phase.) But Nina can't turn her back on the sufferers and the situation turns extremely complex and life-threatening. Gripping Danish mystery with many layers, by the authors of the equally good The Boy in the Suitcase.
Magnificence by Lydia Millet
Susan (whom I got to know in Ghost Lights) is adrift. Her husband's dead (a mugging in Belize) but she casts herself as his "murderer" because she had many loveless sexual adventures in the later years of their marriage. She inherits an amazing old mansion in Pasadena full of taxidermied animals. Somehow she also seems to inherit her young boss's senile mother as well as his dog, as her paraplegic daughter goes off to the jungle with him on a species-saving mission. Lots of philosophical excursions into the stuff of life: men vs women, life vs death, but handled lyrically and gracefully as part of Susan's ruminations. Dreamlike and often wryly funny.
Back next Monday