Tag Archives: michael cox

The Higher Powers of Language

I’m currently reading one of my favorites kinds of books: Victorian gothic. I love the genre for its themes of darkness and light, its use of vibrant, elaborate, flowery language and shadowy characters, its expertly woven webs of complexity and intrigue, and perhaps most of all, for the undercurrent of a love for great literature. Victorian gothic novels feature principals that read almost as much as I do, and I find that this addition in character development supplements the storyline in ways that allow for greater intelligence, cunning, and imagination on the main character’s part. In essence, main characters who read make for better reads themselves.

Case in point, a quote from The Glass of Time, by Michael Cox, spoken by the main character’s tutor and remembered, written down, and conveyed to the reader by his pupil, Esperanza Gorst:

If we are insensible to the higher powers of language, then we are but crawling things upon the earth, mutely struggling towards the day of our extinction; but with the proper acquisition and use of language, in all its plenitude, we can contend with angels.

I, of course, immediately copied this bit down as well and haven’t stopped loving it since, and it got me thinking about other favorite novels that profess a passion for books, and I came up with a quick list. I think it’s clear my feelings about books like this, so by nature, these all come highly recommended.

P.S. The purpose of this post is to encourage reciprocal recommendations. Please, indulge me.

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly

The Meaning of Night, Michael Cox

Atonement, Ian McEwan

The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon


Budgeting for Books

A couple of weeks ago, I had the very good fortune of landing my first full-time job. So now, I’m 23, I’m single, I’m healthy, I’ve been out of school for 6 months, I have a nice little freelance business, and I’m settling into new job. I have rent and bills to pay, of course, but other than that, my financial responsibilities are relatively few. And with a new salary to go with my new job, I can finally enjoy the ability to choose how and where I spend my money. I used this realization as a moment to prioritize. Do I care more about saving my money or having a killer wardrobe? Would I rather go on trips or update my apartment’s furnishings? Do I want to go out and buy drinks or do I want to stay in and buy books? And really, all of these things are things on which I spend (or don’t spend, in the case of saving) my money. But I was able to boil at least one of those decisions down to this: a book and a six-pack of reasonably priced beer (or a decent bottle of wine) are about the same price, and once a week, I would gladly give up one six-pack (or one bottle) for the opportunity to build my personal library.

My personal library, and the constant expansion of it, is important to me becuase the larger my collection gets, the more of a discussion topic it becomes. I like talking about books and lending them and debating their endings and using them to answer questions or conjure new ones. I like reading books more than once; I like looking at them and remembering the time in my life that I read them; I like having them all around me. There is great comfort to me in knowing that anyone who might stumble upon my apartment or even just my belongings, now or much later from now, would be able to conclude without a doubt that this girl had a great and profound relationship with literature and the written word.

All that being said, I still had to choose two books to add to my collection, to correspond with my first two weeks on the job. I felt it was only appropriate to go with one fiction and one non.

sequel to The Meaning of Night

The first fiction addition to my library was an easy pick: The Glass of Time, by Michael Cox. I recently finished Cox’s first novel The Meaning of Night and was absolutely blown away by the intricacy of the storyline, the carefully chosen language, the detail in the descriptions, the elaborate world in which the story takes place, and the wonderfully dark characters that inhabit it. It is post-authentic Victorian gothic literature at its very best, in my opinion; therefore, I just had to have the 20-years-later sequel on my shelf as well. And I’m very much looking forward to reading it.

turn of the century, my fav

And for my nonfiction selection, I went with a work that I’ve heard and read much about: The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. One of the blurbs I read about it said that this book is “nonfiction that reads like fiction,” which is always good news to a reader who, like me, almost universally prefers fiction over nonfiction. This book also has quite a few other elements that promoted it to the top of my list: turn of the 20th century time period, architecture, the Chicago World’s Fair with its famous white buildings and first-ever Ferris wheel, as well as a the story of one slippery murderer. I always read such brilliant reviews of Larson’s works, and I figure his best known should be my introduction to his works.

I think I’m starting off with some solid choices, but as always, I welcome new suggestions and recommendations.